Defining True Interoperability in Healthcare: It’s More Than Just Sharing Data

Russel

Guest post by Kristin Russel, senior director product development and marketing, Omnicell, Inc.

Interoperability, one of the most commonly heard terms in the healthcare IT landscape today, is essential to the success of any modern healthcare facility. New federal interoperability rules and the growing need to share disparate pieces of information outside a hospital’s four walls have made the ability to leverage information between separate health IT systems a critical success factor.

Today’s healthcare providers must share information regarding everything from nursing notes to financial data to medication and supply inventory across the continuum of care. This translates to both a tremendous opportunity and need for improved interoperability. It is estimated that 90 percent of hospitals use at least three different devices that could be integrated with electronic health records (EHRs) [1]. The efficiencies healthcare systems are looking to obtain through integration primarily relate to efficiency improvements in the clinician workflow. Large health systems that maintain a variety of points of care (e.g. long-term care facilities or walk-in clinics) are becoming more prevalent and the need for technologies that do more than pass flat files back and forth is becoming more critical.

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The “Chase” Involved in Implementing the Affordable Care Act

Ken Perez
Ken Perez

Guest post by Ken Perez, senior vice president and director of healthcare policy, MedeAnalytics, Inc. 

Chase scenes—usually involving cars, motorcycles or speedboats—are an adrenaline-producing staple of the Bourne movies, which are some of my favorites. In these scenes, one party, the villain, pursues another party, the hero. The chased tries to evade the chaser by choosing a circuitous, complex route, and often, some sort of distraction or unexpected intervention—such as a train or crowd—prevents the chaser from catching the chased.

Implementing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) can be likened to a long, long chase scene in which significant segments of the public are being asked to chase after the law, i.e., comply with it. But the ACA’s route has certainly been circuitous and complex, and there have been numerous distractions that may ultimately leave some of the populace in the dust of ignorance and nonparticipation.

One can’t blame the public. The ACA is complex, multidimensional in scope, and it features a lengthy, multi-year rollout. A product of two enormous pieces of legislation—the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act—the ACA totalled, before consolidation, over 2,400 pages and contained more than 450 sections.

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NSA and the Federal Government Collect Everything they Can About Us; Are Our Medical Records Next?

The NSA and federal government spying dragnet has filled the news cycle and brought to light the government’s programs that spy on U.S. citizens. Effectively, the feds are collecting every American’s data, from emails, phone calls, Tweets, Facebook pages, Google search and whatever else they can get their hands on, which begs the question: If the government is freely collecting the data of every citizen of the United States – the FBI recently admitted to spying on American using drones on American soil – why them would the data collection stop with these communication methods? Why not continue the collection of data that’s gathered through our medical records through that’s being collected through several efforts, including the meaningful use program.

All of that aside, more information than we can fathom is going to be collected about each of us once Obamacare takes effect next year, which will be siphoned off through several agencies to ensure we’re vetted for the new national healthcare program.

I bring this up for a single purpose – we now know data is being collected about us, so what makes us think our health data won’t be collected and used against us in some manner, as  Pierluigi Stella so clearly outlines in the post – “How Will the NSA Info Gathering Affect Healthcare and Individuals’ Electronic Health Records” — for this site.

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How Will the NSA Info Gathering Affect Healthcare and Individuals’ Electronic Health Records

Pierluigi Stella
Stella

Guest post by Pierluigi Stella, co-founder of Network Box USA.

I live in Houston and have an EZ-tag in my car, so I can “zip” through the toll booths without stopping.  Should I be concerned that my driving speed is being recorded and, perhaps, some day shared with my insurance? Yes, federal law says that it can’t be done, but the Constitution also says the government can’t spy on us!

I visited a specialist recently for a minor procedure.  He then proceeded to share the results thereof with my family doctor via EMR. In fact, all my health records are stored electronically. Should I be concerned that my medical insurance may be able to see things I wouldn’t necessarily like them to see?  Maybe they can’t, but then again, see above!

Browsers download tracking cookies on my computer so companies can better “tailor” advertisements based on my browsing habits. Which literally means they WILL share that information, though they never asked me if they could even plant that cookie in the first place. Should I be concerned?

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Health IT Activity, EHR Use and Lack of ROI So Far this Year, from SearchHealthIT

An amazing level of detail from a new SearchHealthIT infographic that summarizes what health IT activity, resources are available, from tools to improve HIE and meaningful use audits to the final installment of the HIPAA omnibus rule and updated certification standards for EHRs.

Some of the most eye-opening information offered in the piece is that most practices will make the biggest investment HIT investment this year, and the HIE are their biggest priority this year.

Other bits of useful info here is the CMS audit information reflected; up to 10 percent of pre-payment audits for providers who attested in January 2013. Expect that number to jump dramatically for the foreseeable future as CMS seeks to vet the program and stifle criticism about its validity.

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Tips and Tactics for Tackling ICD-10 Implementation

Jahn
Jahn

Guest post by Mark Jahn, vice president, healthcare practice, Atrilogy Solutions Group

Will your healthcare organization be ready for the Oct. 1, 2014, ICD-10 implementation date, as mandated by the Department of Health & Human Services? By now, most organizations should be in the middle of their ICD-10 implementation, or at least nearing the end of their assessment and planning.

Based on my ICD-10 industry knowledge, here are aspects of implementation your organization can expect to experience.

Where is my ICD-10 budget?

Many organizations will struggle to gain the right level of budget to make the ICD-10 transition successful. Most will likely have one budget cycle remaining, at most, before the ICD-10 go-live date. You’ll likely have to compete with other initiatives to secure funding.

However, what many organizations fail to realize is that 100 percent of their patient-related revenues are at risk if ICD-10 is not properly implemented and its risks mitigated. As a result, most organizations will not have budgeted enough for ICD-10 and did not allocate enough contingency to account for the unknowns of implementation.

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Challenges in EHR Conversion: A Roundtable Discussion with Several Healthcare Leaders

Recently, Datamark, a provider of digital mailroom, data entry and document processing services, sponsored a webinar hosted by Creative Healthcare, a provider of performance improvement solutions including Six Sigma, Lean and ISO 9001, who gathered together several healthcare leaders to discuss data management and the use of electronic health records and how those systems are changing the way their hospitals practice and administer care.

Though the group shared a variety of experiences about the use of EHRs, the comments – both good and bad – seemed to reach a consensus among the group.  As such, each of the comments about ease of use and even innovation are hard to ignore. Nor can we dismiss the fact that the issues shared by this group are not experienced by many of their colleagues at hospitals throughout the country.

However, there were some surprising candor from the participants of the roundtable. One of the most surprising opinions expressed was by Shawn Shianna, MD of FHN Healthcare, of Freeport, Ill.: “Most of us feel we’re being forced to this (implement and use EHRs).”

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Healthcare Data Analytics Post Reform: What’s Next for Organizations?

Padmanabhan
Padmana

Guest post by Paddy Padmanabhan is senior vice president of healthcare analytics for Symphony Analytics.

As healthcare continue to become more “democratized” and patients start taking control of their own medical and healthcare information, the emergence of new healthcare entities like ACOs and HIEs are making huge amounts of data available. As new products and care delivery models start pulling previously underinsured and uninsured members of the population into the healthcare system. Given this new healthcare landscape, recent reports have estimated the market size of healthcare analytics to be $10 billion by 2018.  At the same time, a significant shortage of healthcare technology professionals is being forecast, with clinical informatics being one of the most sought-after skills in the coming few years.

In this democratized healthcare environment, previously ignored data sources, such as demographic data and individual credit histories, are now important aspects of analyzing patient profiles. And as we go deeper into internal environments, healthcare companies will start looking at machine data to understand patient and provider behavior

As the complexity of data sources multiplies, health insurance companies are faced with new challenges to manage member engagement, making it difficult for primary care physicians to provide care based on the limited patient information and insights they have from their internal systems alone.

In my conversations with senior healthcare executives, I get a sense that they recognize the situation but are understaffed for even their most basic reporting and analytical needs. Take, for example, the ACO marketplace. Meeting the needs of compliance reporting on thirty-three core quality measures alone requires these entities to invest in and establish a reporting infrastructure, in addition to all the other management information and dashboards they need to manage their businesses successfully and qualify for the shared savings.

Yet, traditionally, healthcare has focused on the “volume” end of analytics, namely data management and governance, and some degree of descriptive analytics. Unlike other markets, such as retail or banking, very little is happening in the area of advanced analytics and predictive modeling.

But there is a new way of approaching the relationships between the “3 P’s” (patient, provider, payer). Traditional parts of healthcare, namely the payers and the providers, have been used to doing business on a fee-for-service model for many years, and all of their information systems are set up to operate in this paradigm. The nature of the relationship was largely adversarial, with the focus being claims and payments, and a constant analysis of care delivery utilization for the purpose of contract negotiations between provider and payer. The new thinking now focuses on the patient as well — a collaborative relationship for improved outcomes and lower costs, and a solid analytical foundation becomes essential to track and manage clinical and financial outcomes.

Take the case of penalties on preventable readmissions. Many hospitals across the nation have been penalized up to 1 percent of their Medicare reimbursements for failing to comply with readmissions thresholds. Hospitals are scrambling to understand the root causes of readmissions, and prevent or minimize these from occurring. Hospital executives are concerned not just with the bottom line impact but the reputational damage that accompanies being on a list of offenders. Payers, on the other hand, are looking at their member populations and their provider networks at a macro level to identify patterns that will help them address the readmissions problem at a cohort level that goes beyond clinical analysis at an individual patient level. New tools and risk-scoring models are required to tackle this problem effectively.

The healthcare system has developed fairly mature analytical capabilities in traditional areas, such as claims and actuarial analysis in the traditional employer-based health insurance model. However they are in the very early stages of understanding how to work in a marketplace that is shifting toward individual members. Internal data alone will no longer cut it, and the risk-management models of employer-based insurance will no longer suffice.

Providers have spent huge sums of money implementing EHR systems and demonstrating meaningful use, to qualify for incentives. Yet the million-dollar questions remains:  what to do with the data? Clinical analytics and informatics has never been a focus in the fee-for-service model, so a major change of mindset is required.

There’s no question that there is a huge need for analytics, and the capacity and capabilities required to meet those needs do not exist today within the healthcare system.  There also are just not enough data scientists out there to go around, and it cannot be addressed by throwing the next new piece of technology that comes along at the problem.

The solution lies in prioritizing the areas of focus, developing a multi-year roadmap, and determining which areas are core to the business and which ones can be delivered using a combination of technology and consulting support. It’s also worthwhile considering global talent, especially from places like India where there is strong talent with backgrounds in science and applied math to take on at least some of the “heavy-lifting” aspects of an analytics program so that scarce and valuable internal resources can be focused on the domain-intensive aspects of analytical work.

It’s time for the healthcare sector to make bold, disruptive moves and embrace analytics whole-heartedly as a strategic tool for growth and profitability.

Paddy Padmanabhan is senior vice president of healthcare analytics for Symphony Analytics ( www.symphony-analytics.com), a division of Symphony Teleca.  He can be reached at paddy.padmanabhan@symphonyteleca.com.

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Health IT Employee Shortage: Healthcare Providers Having Difficulty Recruiting Experienced IT Workers

According to a recent study by Towers Watson — an organization I’m very familiar with for having worked with them on a major healthcare project — there is a health IT employee shortage and healthcare providers need to rethink their approach to hiring and retaining the experienced information technology professionals they need in the new healthcare environment.

Apparently, providers are at a disadvantage when it comes to hiring IT staff in part because of competition from IT consultancies that can afford to pay top dollar for experienced IT professionals.

The Towers Watson survey of more than 100 healthcare providers, including hospitals, found that two-thirds (67%) are having problems attracting experienced IT employees, and 38% reporting retention issues. The attraction problem is even greater for Epic-certified professionals, with nearly three-quarters (73%) of the respondents reporting difficulty hiring these individuals, whose specialized skills are essential to meet new electronic medical record requirements under health care reform.

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What Keeps Health IT Leaders Up At Night?: Patient Safety, Automation … and the List Goes On

What keeps health IT leaders up at night? It’s a simple question with millions of different responses. For each one of us, it’s something entirely different. For me, I toss and turn because of a few fairly simple reasons: ensuring my start-up company is bringing in revenue to cover the bills and building it into a sustainable first-class organization, not the mention making sure my family is healthy and secure.

Most likely what keeps me up, keeps health IT leaders up, too, but they likely face a few more complexities than I given the huge responsibility they bear keeping their products in compliance with reform and regulation, and the large number of people their products touch. With all of the activity and rapid change in the ever evolving world of health IT, I decided to ask a few folks what in fact keeps them up at night.

Some of the following responses you might expect; others are a bit surprising.

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