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EMR Change Cuts Cardiac Telemetry Use Substantially

Posted on September 25, 2014 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare editor and analyst with 25 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

Changing styles of medical practice can be really tough, even if major trade organization sticks its oar in to encourage new behavior from docs.

Such is the situation with cardiac telemetry, which is listed by the American Board of Internal Medicine Foundation as either unnecessary or overused in most cases. But a recent piece of research demonstrated that configuring an EMR to help doctors comply with the guideline can help hospitals lower needless cardiac monitoring substantially.

Often, it takes a very long time to get doctors to embrace new guidelines like these, despite pressure from payers, employers and even peers. (Physicians may turn on a dime and try out a new drug when the right pharmaceutical rep shows up, but that’s another story.) Doctors say they stick to their habits because of patient, institutional or personal preferences, as well as fear of lawsuits.

But according to a recent study appearing in JAMA Internal Medicine, reprogramming its Centricity EMR did the trick for Wilmington, Del.-based Christiana Care Health System.

To curb the use of cardiac telemetry that was unnecessary, Christiana Care removed the standard option for doctors to order cardiac monitoring outside of AHA guidelines, and required them to take an extra step to order this type of test.

Meanwhile, when the cardiac monitoring order did fall within AHA guidelines, Christiana Care added an AHA-recommended time frame for the monitoring. After that time passed, the EMR notified nurses to stop the monitoring or ask physicians if they believed it would be unsafe to stop.

The results were striking. After implementing the changes in the EMR, the health systems average daily not intensive care unit patients with cardiac monitoring fell by 70%. What’s more, Christiana Care’s average daily cost of administering  non-ICU cardiac monitoring held by 70%, from $18,971 to $5,772.

Christiana Care’s health IT presence is already well ahead of many hospitals — it’s reached Stage 6 of the HIMSS EMRAM scale — so it’s not surprising to see it leading the way in shaping physician behavior.

The question now is how the system builds on what it’s learned. Having survived a politically-sensitive transition without creating a revolution in its ranks, I’d argue the time is now to jump in and work on compliance with other clinical guidelines. With pressure mounting to deliver efficient care, it’d be smart to keep the ball rolling.

Physician Coaches Can Increase EMR Engagement

Posted on July 24, 2013 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare editor and analyst with 25 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

Today I read an interesting piece in HealthSystemCIO.com about the approach Naples, FL-based NCH Health System has taken to help its physicians ease into using its EMR.  According to Helen Thompson, VP & CIO, NCH has created a corps of physician coaches to help doctors get and stay comfortable with EMR use.

As she not too surprisingly notes, physicians are her toughest customers, rightfully demanding that the EMR helps them to deliver better care and supports their process. However, getting physicians situated is a very difficult challenge, given that they’re having to learn new processes and a new language.

To address this challenge, NCH has developed a new model for training, involving physician coaches in pre-conversion, implementation and post-conversion support for doctors. While these coaches don’t necessarily have direct clinical experience, they are very knowledgeable about both the EMR and physician workflow issues, Thompson says

The process of using the coaches works as follows:

* Preconversion:  The coaches work on programs for teaching and behavior change management plus develop an online education component.  As the teaching and behavior change takes place, they monitor progress and report as milestones are reached. To make themselves accessible, the coaches provide “concierge-like” services including making rounds with doctors or offices.

* During conversion: Coaches are available for dedicated “at the elbow” support to physicians as needed.

* Post-conversion:  The coaches offer refresher courses and change management support, as well as continuing to be available for at the elbow coaching to physicians as needed.

The coaches seem to be quite a success. NCH has seen a significant improvement in CPOE and electronic documentation measures, with adoption and engagement increased by roughly 5 percent to 10 percent. What’s more, the coaches share physician feedback with hospital leaders, allowing for ongoing improvement. (Thompson also hired a CMIO to further boost the process, which drove up e-documentation and CPOE use by a total of 25 percent.)

From my vantage point, the coaching program sounds like a very good idea. My only question is whether hospital IT departments will typically have the resources to build up a team of coaches, given that they’re generally short on time and staff as it is.  But it does seem to me that it’s a no-brainer for hospitals that can manage it to give this idea a try; after all, getting physicians on board with your EMR is worth just about any effort you put into it.

CA Hospital Adds CPOE To VistA Implementation

Posted on July 1, 2013 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare editor and analyst with 25 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

It’s still rare these days to see a private hospital roll out open source EMR VistA, despite VistA’s excellent reputation. But one such hospital has not only implemented VistA, it’s added CPOE to its VistA rollout.

The facility in question is Oroville (CA) Hospital, which spent three years self-implementing the VA platform. Oroville has spent seven years developing a paper-based order set system, and has now converted its order sets from paper to electronic.

For a year the medical staff at Oroville had been using paper order sets and the VistA EMR, but that arrangement was getting old, so the transition was a happy one, according to Dr. Matthew Fine, the hospital’s chief medical officer, who’s quoted in a press statement.

“After a whole year of using paper and electronic charts the staff was chomping at the bit to go live and the anticipation outweighed the fear… so turning on CPOE was almost a welcomed event. The inadvertent strategy of having hybrid charts seems to have been a good way to make full conversion to EHR/CPOE more palatable,” Dr. Fine said.

To make the CPOE transition, the Oroville staff created a mechanism for systematically converting order sets to an electronic format, the press release notes. Each order set, once transformed, was reviewed by a relevant group of physicians along with 20-odd additional staff including department/section heads, nurses, pharmacists, nutritionists, lab staff and anyone else who might be carrying out the orders in the order sets.

Since go-live in October of last year, electronic order volume has mounted, and now 80 percent of orders are electronic. The hospital’s goal is for 100 percent of orders to be electronic, but it has hit a stumbling block in that it has been unable to adapt VistA’s original CP Flowsheet module.

For that reason, Oroville will have to create its own CPOE solution for several areas of the hospital, including outpatient surgery and the PACU.

Structuring for the Future of Clinical Decision Support (CDS)

Posted on May 10, 2013 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 6000 articles with John having written over 3000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 13 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit.

The following is a guest post by Adam Lokeh, M.D., vice president of clinical development and informatics with Wolters Kluwer Health.

Clinical decision support tools (CDS) play an increasingly critical role in a healthcare organization’s overarching strategy to comply with federal incentive programs and succeed within the quality- and performance-based reimbursement landscape currently unfolding. When effectively aligned with physician documentation practices at the point of care, these tools can have a powerful impact on error reduction, the standardization of evidence-based practices, quality of care and ultimately saving lives.

Research reveals that a combination of advanced CDS technology working in tandem with computerized physician order entry (CPOE) solutions will be needed to successfully navigate the coming healthcare landscape. A number of CDS elements will need to be considered and integrated into existing systems to create this powerful collaboration including evidence-based order sets, alerting systems for medication management, ECA rules (event, condition, action), referential information including guidelines and care plans, smart documentation and surveillance technology to name a few. To fully leverage the advantages of these tools, it’s important to understand the different approaches to data and content and the inherent advantages and disadvantage of each.

Currently, there are two approaches to content when designing point-of-care IT infrastructures—structured and unstructured. While both have the potential to standardize care and improve decision-making, industry preference leans toward greater integration and use of structured content for its ability to lay a foundation of improved accuracy, efficiency and ability to drive clinical decision support and analytics.

Because structured content is tagged or coded data that resides in a fixed field, it can be easily located, identified and understood, simplifying the process of integrating content into existing systems and sharing between disparate systems. In contrast, unstructured content, such as free text, often results in irregularities and ambiguities that make it harder to interpret.

Unstructured data makes it more difficult for health IT systems to recognize shared data, requiring complex and largely manual conversion processes that are prone to errors, resulting in inaccurate data. When inaccurate patient information is then shared between systems, the potential for adverse events or care issues is only compounded.

While the premise of this discussion as it relates to the benefits of structured content would seem clear, it’s not that simple. Physicians want the ability to express themselves freely when documenting, and there is concern within the physician community that the full patient picture could get lost if the narrative is too highly structured. As a practicing physician, I understand the delicate balance that exists between the need for a technological foundation that promotes accurate information sharing and the desire to protect the individual patient story.

The truth is that there can be risk without allowing for flexibility in creation of narrative content.  Poorly-designed interfaces have clearly existed with some structured content frameworks historically—and still do today within some CDS and CPOE applications—that can cause pieces of the patient narrative to get lost. The use of applications lacking in flexible design and without trustworthy content that is thorough and exhaustive in nature has led to poor physician perception and even fear that the technology will marginalize patient care. Ultimately, the end result is poor physician adoption.

That is why it is so critical that vendors work with physicians to identify all essential elements as well as the factors that can hinder adoption.  The solution is new, thoughtful clinician-designed systems that are more intuitive and flexible, allowing some limited unstructured content to help flesh out the narrative.

When CDS technology is developed through this kind of high-level partnership and designed to accommodate the use of structured content where it is needed most, content can be indexed at a granular level, easing the process of mapping within systems.  It also lays a foundation for automated updating of content as industry evidence changes and provides a framework for more robust reporting due to extensive filtering capabilities.

The end result is more accurate and efficient integration of the best industry evidence at the point of care, delivering a framework for decision support that truly impacts care without compromising the patient narrative. It’s this kind of far-reaching potential—currently offered through some of the more advanced CDS and CPOE applications in the industry—that physicians need to witness to truly understand what can be accomplished. Unfortunately, the industry has not done a very good job of educating them to date.

Some are looking to the potential of natural language processing (NLP) to address the needs for mapping in free-text environments through data mining. While this path offers an alternative, it is not as powerful a foundation as structured content for improving decision making at the point of care. In fact, it’s retroactive. If data mining occurs after the patient narrative has already been input, decision support can, by definition, only be offered “after the fact.”

In essence, physician documentation that is completed in a structured-content environment —as opposed to a traditional dictation method—is, in itself, a form of CDS. Because documentation can be structured to guide and remind physicians to document important medical elements, it assures that nothing is overlooked.

Many industry initiatives point to greater incorporation of structured content into the design of IT applications for information exchange. Industry movements and organizations such as Meaningful Use, HL7, the Standards and Interoperability (S&I) Framework Health eDecisions Project and the CDS Consortium are working towards industry standards that will require use of more structured content.

The simple fact is that when data is shared, it has to be recognized across and between systems. Structured content within CDS applications allows data to be mapped to a standardized vocabulary to ensure accuracy.

That said, clinicians prefer free text. Until the industry properly educates physicians regarding the power inherent in structured content, the best approach will be a hybrid that includes avenues for both models. For maximum adoption, IT vendors should consider that critical components will need to be structured to drive CDS, reporting and quality metrics, but allowing for some amount of free text to smooth out the edges for more widespread adoption.

New Hospital Rockets To Top Of HIMSS EMR Adoption Scale

Posted on December 26, 2012 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare editor and analyst with 25 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

Here’s a story of what can happen when a hospital starts out from scratch with the latest in EMR knowledge, rather than having to integrate its system bit by bit.

Texas Health Alliance, a 50-bed acute-care hospital based in north Fort Worth, has been named as achieving the rarely-seen Stage 7 in HIMSS Analytics EMR Adoption Model. At present, only 103 U.S. hospitals, or 1.9 percent, are currently at Stage 7.

Some of the outstanding features of the rollout include:

* Over 95 percent utilization of CPOE (driven predominately by well-designed order set content, HIMSS says)
* Advanced clinical decision support alerts that support best practice protocols
* Smart use of an enterprise data warehouse used to monitor best practice alerts and core measures
* Closed-loop medication administration environment

This award is interesting given that small hospitals have been well behind the curve in Meaningful Use and meeting the HIMSS standards.  But there’s some obvious reasons why it’s been so successful.

For one thing, THA has been open only since September. I’ll bet many readers would kill for the clean slate that offers the IT people there. No need for expensive integration projects to bring the new EMR on board; no having to switch staffers from one technology to another; no major transition from paper to digital; and the list of benefits goes on.

Another major factor working in its favor is that THA is part of nonprofit hospital system Texas Health Resources.

A tiny hospital backed by a sizeable IDN is in a different position entirely than an independent critical access hospital, so it’s not exactly astonishing that it zoomed ahead. And when the parent chain already has its own (Epic) install well under way — and an engaged community of users — that knowledge goes a long way.

Too bad most hospitals can’t start out fresh the way THA did. Innovation always comes easier if it isn’t competing with the stuff you’ve already got.

CPOE, Clinical Decision Support Help Order Set Usability

Posted on August 27, 2012 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare editor and analyst with 25 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

CPOE is coming into its own as a technology, after lagging far behind in adoption for many years. And new evidence suggests that this may be a good thing. A new study has concluded that when paired with clinical decision support, CPOE improves order set usability, decreases providers’ mental workload and increases clinical guideline adherence, CMIO reports.

The study, which was published in the September issue of Pediatrics, compares how a group of surgeons at Seattle Children’s Hospital fared using order sets developed on an ad-hoc basis versus sets developed systematically using software design methods.

Researchers Jeffrey Avansino, MD and Michael G. Leu, both of Seattle Children’s, had seven surgeons complete two order sets, one developed on an ad-hoc basis and one developed systematically.  The surgeons were working with two clinical scenarios, one in which they were treating a child with perforated appendicitis and the other with a nonperforated appendicitis.

When reviewing the order sets, all of the surgeons preferred the systematically developed order sets, saying that they were more usable and easier to think through. As it turned out, systematically developed sets were also more likely to adhere to clinical guidelines.

All that being said, the authors did express some concern that systems like these might limit resident training, as the sets don’t necessarily explain why a particular decision is being suggested. “We are concerned about the potential of these systems to limit resident training, creating an environment for ‘cookbook medicine’ resulting from prechecked orders,” Avansino and Leu wrote, according to the CMIO piece.

Unfortunately, that’s the kind of tradeoff we’re going to be struggling with often as we further leverage clinical decision support and CPOE. You can’t streamline ordering to a high degree without losing some of the educational aspects of independent decision making — there’s no getting around it. Decision-making is messy and idiosyncratic.  We’ll just have to see if carefully-developed order sets are beneficial enough to risk the “cookbook” problem.

Medicare’s New Requirement for Evidence-based Order Sets

Posted on August 13, 2012 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 6000 articles with John having written over 3000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 13 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit.

The following is a guest post by Sean Benson. Sean Benson is co-founder of ProVation Medical and Vice President of Innovation at Wolters Kluwer Health.

In-house creation and maintenance of order sets by hospital staff just got a bit more challenging.

Without much fanfare, a small but significant change to Medicare’s Conditions of Participation (CoP) for hospitals went into effect in mid-July.  The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has decreed that Medicare-participating hospitals that use order sets, pre-printed or electronic standing orders and protocols for patient orders must ensure that they are consistent with nationally recognized and evidence-based guidelines and recommendations.

To be clear, this new CoP rule does not prohibit an individual hospital from developing its own pre-printed and electronic order sets. It does define the criteria for doing so, however.  CMS expects a hospital to look to nationally recognized guidelines, which should always be evidence-based, and to its own experiences and in-house studies and data.  CMS wants hospitals to avoid using anecdotal evidence, theories that have not been proven effective, or the old fallback of ‘that’s the way we’ve always done it’ as a basis for establishing its orders and protocols.

In-house creation of order sets has always presented challenges for hospitals.  Significant staff time must be devoted to drafting individual order sets, which can number in the hundreds at some institutions.  Subsequent review and consensus-building by the appropriate clinicians can also prove burdensome and difficult.  And then there is the need to periodically check and update existing order sets to make sure they reflect best practices.

Now CMS has added the requirement that order sets be based on the latest evidence and guidelines. The sheer volume of new medical evidence scattered across hundreds of sources that must be evaluated when creating an order set – an estimated 2 million scientific articles are published each year – means compliance will be a significant drain on internal resources. It also means that flow of evidence must be continuously monitored to determine when it necessitates a change in practice and, thus, a change in one or more existing order sets.

Compliance with the new CoP requirement can readily be achieved by “going digital”.  Electronic order set authoring tools offer pre-defined templates populated with content drawn from medical reference databases that track the latest clinical advances. This streamlines creation of new order sets and maintenance of existing ones, which remain linked to the reference databases. Alerts are generated whenever new evidence or guidelines necessitate a protocol change and, in some cases, impacted order sets can be updated with a single click.

Order Set authoring tools are already being widely deployed in many hospitals seeking to achieve the Computerized Physician Order Entry (CPOE) requirements of Meaningful Use.  Hospitals that have joined new accountable care organizations are also leveraging these solutions to help promote evidence-based medicine in their care coordination efforts.  Medicare’s new CoP rule requiring evidence-based order sets offers CIOs and CMIOs with yet one more incentive to digitize the order set creation process.