Guest post by Steve Wilson, vice president of product management and marketing, Accusoft.
It’s no surprise that the healthcare industry is one of the most highly-regulated industries in the United States. Therefore, maintaining compliance is no easy feat. Paperwork and documentation often hinder the productivity of even the most advanced healthcare facilities. Fortunately, with the digital revolution, a majority of these inefficiencies can be solved with document automation.
More healthcare companies are utilizing the software to help ensure compliance, reduce risk and focus on providing better patient care. It does so by providing facilities with the ability to set up digital checklists with due dates, reminders for task completion, and more. Whether it’s used in daily operations or staff and patient-related work, document automation makes the process simple. Here’s how:
With all that goes on in a single healthcare facility, there are certain details that can often be overlooked or forgotten. Daily operational tasks, such as completing vendor contracts and purchase orders, keep the facility running – yet the Journal of Contract Management report found that more than 70 percent of companies lose or misplace 10 percent or more of signed contracts.
A modern workflow software manages these important recurring documents and contracts with an automated process. Furthermore, with electronic signatures, repeating or bulk documents, such as facilities requests, can also be signed. Easing the burden of daily operations helps to significantly free up valuable time to focus on providing the best patient care.
Better patient care begins with better staff operations. Document automation provides a centralized location to keep all important templates — from physician agreements and credential documents to time sheets and other organizational forms. Instead of relying on hard copies of documents, which are susceptible to damage or misplacement, everything is digital. No matter the size or complexity of the staff, as healthcare facility staff sizes can range from 42 to more than 11,000, digital processes help maintain compliance by ensuring credentials and certifications are standardized and up-to-date.
Patient care is the driving force behind the massive growth of the healthcare industry. While nearly all facilities offer good care, the most distinguished are recognized for their outstanding commitment to offering the best care. When facilities and operations are efficient and compliant, health staff can focus their attention on providing that care, instead of managing paperwork and processes. Workflow software can easily set periodic reminders to inspect and maintain emergency generators, eyewash stations and fire extinguishers to ensure they are always in working order in case of emergency.
Then you are seriously in need of healthcare IT solutions.
With advancements in technology, the healthcare sector is becoming digitized. The focus is on personalized and patient-centric technology, which can help in accelerating the process of treatment.
Healthcare IT solutions are meant for delivering the best service to the patients as well as to enhance operational efficiency. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 was passed to provide $19 billion for the purpose of promoting the use of EHR technology in hospitals and medical practices. This proves the growing importance of healthcare IT solutions.
Healthcare IT includes the latest technologies like analytics, cloud computing, electronic health record systems, as well as data management systems. A growing number of institutions are successfully implementing healthcare IT solutions to improve their efficiency. It has been observed that manual entering of data and health records of patients are taking up too much time of the administrative staff as well as the medical personnel. This time can be utilized to provide better services to the patients.
Here are some of the benefits of using healthcare IT:
EHR technology –– Electronic health records are part of the digital revolution that has taken over the healthcare sector. EHRs make the whole process of keeping patient records very streamlined and efficient. Data can be accessed both by the doctors as well as the patients because it is available on an electronic platform. The personal health records portal helps in management of patient information. Medical personnel can take better care of the patients when they have all the information on one platform. Time and effort spent on manually entering the data are saved so that doctors can provide better treatment to the patients and can serve the people who are in need of doctor care.
Better coordination of patient care — Healthcare IT solutions help in better coordination between physicians, specialists, nursing staff, lab technicians and other medical personnel. Vital information regarding the patient’s health is available to all of them. When the same data can be accessed by everyone, the problems of duplicate tests, contradictory medication prescription and miscommunication can be avoided. This saves time and minimizes the chances of errors leading to improvement in the overall quality of care that is provided to the patients.
Patient empowerment– When the patient has access to all his personal health records, he can play a more active role in managing his overall well being and determine the outcome of the treatment that he receives. All the lab results, medical history records as well as drug information are available on an online platform for the patient. The EHR system allows the patient to schedule appointments, communicate with the doctor as well as to refill prescriptions. Such healthcare IT solutions increase patient satisfaction.
Cost savings — Healthcare IT not only saves time, but expenses too. Easier documentation reduces the administrative cost and increases the number of patients that a medical facility can treat. This leads to an overall increase in revenue generation.
As a provider, you probably have been living with meaningful use in the last many years, and now, MACRA (Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act), which combines parts of the Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS), Value-based Payment Modifier (VBM), and the Medicare electronic health record incentive program into the Merit-based Incentive Payment System, or MIPS.
What really is the part of MIPS that matters, for this year and next, anyway? 2017 is the transition year of MACRA, but you need to report something (for various measures) or lose 4 percent Medicare payment adjustment in 2019. If you make a partial-year (90 consecutive days) report by October 1, depending on how you fare against the CMS’ annual performance benchmark, there may even be a chance to get a positive Medicare payment adjustment. In general, a provider will report in the four MIPS performance categories: quality (weighted 60 percent of total in 2017), cost (not weighted in 2017), improvement activities (loosely “care coordination,” 15 percent ), and Advancing Care Information (“EHR use”, 25 percent). Then in 2018 and 2019, with improvement activities and advancing care information remain the same, the quality category will be weighted 50 percent and 30 percent respectively, giving way to cost (10 percent and 30 percent in each of 2018 and 2019).
This sounds like high school all over again – the authority sets the goals that arguably lead you to learn the materials that matter, and grade you on them. If you score well in the four MIPS performance categories, chances are your operations are running quite well. But deep down, perhaps your priorities are simply to provide great patient care, and get compensated for your expertise and services. Then this high-school approach of grading your services, and you – yes, your performance score will be available publicly on the Physician Compare website – becomes a distraction that few providers like to deal with.
So how will you live with this reality? One approach is to actually embrace and integrate MIPS into your operations! Then all MIPS requirements don’t just become some checkbox items you try to complete, but actually a tool to improve your operations. Here are three ways to “take advantage” of MIPS as a guideline to help you thrive:
Embrace a Data-driven Approach
Run your operations based on data. Many EHRs provide at least some basic level of reports that allow you to keep a finger on the pulse of your operations. Make the relevant reports accessible to your team. For the metrics that are relevant to your operations, dedicate a periodic review session to keep everyone abreast of the numbers, and your targets. To leverage MIPS to improve your bottom line, you will want at least some level of visibility through these reports how working those numbers will bring more revenues and/or patient satisfaction, or lower cost. Then it will become clear MIPS can benefit your operations.
Integrate MIPS Efforts Into Your Workflow
Then the team is to identify and make sure they engage the patients that fall in the categories of the reporting metrics to complete the required actions. While in a smaller clinic, some way of patient tracking; e.g. shared call list, may work fine. If your targets involve hundreds or even thousands of patients over a period of time, an automated, smart workflow approach will serve the situation much better. The smart workflow approach is part of the turnkey service my team at LucidAct built after experiencing such patient-care collaboration problems at San Francisco General Hospital in a consulting engagement. Smart workflows keep track of what have been done by whom for a patient, and conditionally activates the next task(s). It can also automate tasks such as calling a patient. Such care-action details in conjunction with the reports above will reveal how the team’s efforts chisel (or not) off the workloads, and improve the bottom line. Having them available in the review sessions ties the effectiveness of the team’s efforts back to the MIPS targets, allowing you to make adjustments to your operations as needed.
The recent DEA schedule change of hydrocodone prescription drugs has critical implications for prescribers, pharmacies and patients – not only for patients who are taking hydrocodone medications for chronic pain, but also for patients who experience new injuries that require short-term pain treatment.
The following scenario depicts how the hydrocodone schedule change can impact all of these stakeholders:
A patient goes to see her primary care physician because she twisted her knee in an exercise class and can barely walk. During the examination, the physician determines that the patient has torn her ACL and will need a referral to an orthopedic surgeon for further examination and treatment. In the meantime, however, the physician is going to prescribe the patient Vicodin, a common pain medication, which has recently been reclassified as a Class II drug under the DEA’s schedule change.
Sounds like a pretty common story, right? But as simple as this scenario sounds, there are multiple challenges that can arise when physicians don’t have the right tools to do their jobs efficiently.
The first potential problem has to do with the referral. The method a physician uses to refer patients to specialists matters – a lot. Paper-based referrals can cause a number of problems, from insufficient information provided to specialists, to lack of timely feedback to referring physicians, to inefficient referral tracking.
Electronic referral management through the use of electronic health records (EHR) solves potential issues with timeliness and tracking. But whom a physician selects to refer a patient to is also critical. In today’s value-based model of healthcare, careful selection and management of physician referrals is integral to improving patient outcomes and reducing healthcare costs. And one of the best ways to maximize physician referrals is to use an accurate physician directory, or database, that contains vital information like location, ZIP code detail, affiliations, areas of specialty, and organizational capabilities.