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Survey: Confusion Slowing Meaningful Use Compliance

While Meaningful Use is likely to spur improvements in health IT, confusion over regulations — and the need to pursue other pressing HIT projects — are slowing down MU compliance, according to a new study.

The survey was conducted by Stoltenberg Consulting, which spoke with health IT managers, clinicians, HIT vendors and government agencies that attended this year’s HIMSS event.

Researchers asked which areas in which HIT will achieve the biggest improvements over the next 12 months.  The biggest group (35 percent) named Meaningful Use, while 19 percent said health information exchange, clinical integration and mobile health were due for the most growth.

When asked what might hold them back from meeting Meaningful Use requirements, 29 percent said confusion and/or ambiguity in the regulations were a challenge. Others named competing health IT projects (23 percent) and a lack of key resources such as funding, IT skills, talent and time (17 percent).

The survey also asked respondents what issues were likely to dominate HIT discussions this year.  Respondents favored health information exchange (62 percent), followed closely by mobile health (58 percent) and clinical analytics (54 percent).

As part of the survey, Stoltenberg also asked survey respondents which problems HIT executives would most likely attempt to solve with the help of a specialized IT consulting firm. The responses included ICD-10 (25 percent), Meaningful Use (25 percent), clinical and business intelligence (23 percent), cloud computing (21 percent) and CPOE/clinical systems implementation (20 percent).

May 3, 2013 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 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.

Is Epic Stifling Health IT Innovation?

In many ways and definitely based on the buzz, Epic is at the top of the hospital EMR market. According to one estimate, about 40 percent of the U.S. population has its medical information stored in an Epic EMR, a stunning number given the level of competition in the hospital EMR space.

The question is, what impact is that having on the EMR marketplace?  According to one piece posted this week by Medical Economics,  Epic may be stifling health IT innovation due to its nearly-unassailable market lead.

As readers probably know, Epic has established an empire built around antiquated technology (MUMPS), which essentially forces any company that hopes to interoperate to bear its MUMPS core in mind. We’re talking the blunted edge here.

Perhaps more importantly, now that Epic has such a dominant market share, if it chooses to keep a closed system in place, customers will only get what innovations are driven internally by Epic.  If hospitals want innovations emerging outside the Epic bubble, they’ll have to consider the staggering costs — in some cases in the hundreds of millions of dollars — of switching outright to another vendor. If that doesn’t stifle innovation I don’t know what does.

This situation hasn’t been lost on healthcare industry leaders, some of whom have begun to balk at Epic’s rise, Medical Economics reports.

As the piece notes, Epic has attracted outspoken critics that question whether Epic’s’ market dominance is bad for the health IT world as a whole. One of those critics is Paul Levy, former CEO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, who has taken shots at the EMR giant from his “Not Running A Hospital” blog.

Levy, who Medical Economics cites as one of Epic’s toughest opponents, has been known to compare customers’ relationship with Epic to Stockholm Syndrome, a condition occurring when hostages begin to sympathize and identify with their captors.

All that being said, at the  moment, there’s little critics can do to change Epic’s business practices or development plans. Perhaps the Federal Trade Commission will step in at some point if it appears to staff there that Epic’s market control is anti-competitive.   In the mean time, though, Epic seems to have a lock on the hospital marketplace — and a disproportionate role in shaping the future of EMRs generally.

April 30, 2013 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 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.

EMRs Have Certifications Yanked

A California EMR developer has become the first to have its certification for Meaningful Use taken away by the ONC.

EHRMagic-Ambulatory and EHRMagic-Inpatient, both of which were developed by Santa Fe Springs, Calif.-based EMRMagic, failed to meet certification requirements, reports EMR Thoughts.

The de-certification process began when ONC and ONC-authorized certification body InfoGard Laboratories were notified that the EHRMagic products didn’t meet Meaningful Use certification requirements.

InfoGard Laboratories analyzed the information sent along with the notification and contacted the vendor. It then began the process of ONC-ACB required surveillance activities, according to HIN. At that point, InfoGard decided to test the two products for compliance with certain requirements.  EHRMagic’s products were then retested, and failed to meet criteria for Meaningful Use certification.

Fortunately for the company’s customers, no providers had yet attempted Meaningful Use attestation using these products. One can only imagine the frustration they would have faced if they attempted to attest in good faith and found out that the EMR product they were using wasn’t capable of supporting MU certification.

I’m left wondering whether providers would have grounds for a lawsuit against the offending vendor if they attempted certification with a product that didn’t support Meaningful Use, particularly if the vendor had any idea that this might be the case.

Realistically, it seems likely at some point in the future, some provider will be left high and dry by a certified product that shouldn’t have gotten the go-ahead.  My guess is that things will get nasty pretty quickly!

April 29, 2013 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 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.

ONC Proposes New EMR Vendor Fee

It looks like federal budget balancing fervor could soon have an impact on EMR vendors (See also this post on EHR Incentive and Sequestration). As part of President Obama’s current budget proposal, the ONC is suggesting that health IT vendors pay about $1 million in fees to help pay for its certification and standards work, reports Modern Healthcare. Collection of the fee, which would probably begin late in the fiscal year, would be collected by ONC-Authorized Certification Bodies.

The proposal is part of the ONC’s section of the overall budget proposal released this week by the Obama Administration. The president’s budget is already causing a stir in healthcare circles outside of IT, as it calls for $5.6 billion in Medicare payment cuts for fiscal 2014.

So what has caused the ONC to look for fresh revenue?  One key reason is that ONC’s $2 billion appropriation from ARRA is scheduled to expire at the end of fiscal 2013, and the agency needs new funds to stay on its feet.

By its logic, the improved testing and certification programs will help vendors save time and money, which justifies their kicking in some money to support the process, Modern Healthcare says.

Not only would the funds gear up the certification program, it would also help maintain ONC’s Certified Health IT product list, as well as its development work around standards for interoperability and policy docs related to HIT certification, the magazine reports.

Without a doubt, the proposed fees will make vendors unhappy, but as I see it they’re just not large enough to justify a major uprising by the health IT community.  The only real issue I see is whether the fees are going to be proportionate to the size of the vendor; if I were a small ambulatory player I’d be quite upset if I paid the same fee as Epic or Cerner.

Otherwise, this fee seems like a relatively small issue, particularly if ONC does a good job of using the funds to improve the certification program. Let’s hope it works out that way.

April 12, 2013 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 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.

CommonWell Alliance Goals Challenged By ONC

As virtually everyone in health IT knows, HIMSS saw the dawning of a new EMR vendor alliance which proposes to make health data exchange simpler.  The group, the CommonWell Alliance, includes McKesson, Cerner, Allscripts, Greenway and athenahealth, plus McKesson’s connectivity business RelayHealth.

Now that the PR fairy dust has settled and we’re talking serious business, it’s a good time to consider exactly what these vendors hope to accomplish, as we’re talking about enough vendor muscle to have a serious impact on the way health data is shared.

This week, ONC released a report doing just that, according to a piece in Government Health IT.  At a meeting of the Health IT Policy Committee on April 3, National Coordinator for Health Information Technology Farzad Mostashari, MD and other committee members discussed the report, which raised some hard questions about the Alliance.

According to Government Health IT, the report outlined the following as CommonWell’s chief goals:

  • Enabling providers to unambiguously identify patients – but not with a national patient identifier;
  • Providing a way to match patients with their healthcare records as they transition through care facilities;
  • Using existing unique identifiers (salted/hashed) such as cell phone number, email addresses or driver’s licenses for identity management;
  • Enabling patients to manage consent and authorization;
  • Creating a HIPAA-compliant and patient-centered means to simplify management of data-sharing consents and authorizations, focusing initially on the most common treatment situations;
  • Helping providers to find the location of patient records across care locations via a secure nationwide records locator service;
  • Enabling providers, with appropriate authorization, to issue targeted (directed) queries that provide for peer-to-peer (e.g., EHR to EHR) exchange.

Unlike most standards-setting efforts, members of the group are going to have to pay if they want to participate, a nice little detail that wasn’t made clear when CommonWell was announced.

Though it will be at least a year before CommonWell pilots its approach, members of the Committee are quite appropriately wondering now about the impact of such an effort.

Dr. Mostashari argued that the key question is whether the service will work as an optional overlay across a regional exchange, or whether it requires exclusive participation. Other committee members agreed.

The bottom line for committee members, Government Health IT reports, is that they’re willing to take a wait-and-see approach. As for us out here in the peanut gallery, I believe we should challenge the heck out of this thing.

Members of the Health IT Policy Committee are well advised to wonder whether this coming together of powerful HIT vendors could undermine broader efforts to foster interoperability. There’s a lot to look into here, even if the allmighty Epic never joins.

April 8, 2013 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 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.

EMR Vendors Need To Get Their Act Together

For quite some time now, EMR vendors have gotten away with selling products that aren’t very usable and may even pose safety risks. But that’s the price enterprise EMR buyers have been willing to pay to jump in and automate. Very soon, though, vendors may be held to a higher standard, a new report from KLAS.

KLAS recently held a bake-off comparing Allscripts, Cerner, Epic, McKesson’s Paragon, Meditech 6 and Siemens’ Soarian EMRs head to head where it comes to usability and efficiency, SearchHealthIT reports. The study looked at how the products worked for individual users, and then looked at how they meet organizational quality of care demands.

Some of the EMRs  – and I wish SearchHealthIT had told us which ones — took a full month for physicians to learn. In some cases, physicians who were willing to take that month ended up with a richer experience than those which were easy and quick to learn, while in other cases, the darned thing still wasn’t usable.  Of course, those with long learning curves and unimpressive features suffered from low physician adoption, the  publication notes.

This is all interesting enough, but what grabbed me about the story was a provider quote from an end user, supplied by KLAS:

“As suggested by the new 2014 certification standards, vendors should take more responsibility for both the usability and safety of their products. These responsibilities shouldn’t be the sole purview of healthcare organizations and providers like they have been until now.”

Could it be that providers have finally gotten to the point where they’re no longer going to put up with unusable products and bring the hammer down even on giants like the big-shouldered group listed above?  After all, so far providers have swallowed hard and accepted a lot of ugly technology.

Maybe Meaningful Use demands are finally giving health organizations the backbone they need to stand up to Jabba the Hutt vendors?

March 22, 2013 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 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.

Epic Not Invited To CommonWell Interoperability Alliance

Well, well, well. Far from refusing to participate, it looks like Epic may have been caught off-guard when a group of EMR players announced at HIMSS that they’d formed an interoperability alliance, according to a story appearing in Forbes.

For those who haven’t heard, Cerner, McKesson, Allscripts, Greenway Medical Technologies and athenahealth announced this week that they were forming the CommonWell Health Alliance, a non-profit dedicated to promoting interoperability between their products. Epic was conspicuously absent from the list of participants.

At the announcement’s outset, commentators like yours truly assumed that Epic, in its imperial way, had refused to join the party.  After all, McKesson CEO John Hammergren had told the press that “everyone in the industry” had been invited to take part in the club.

But no, apparently this isn’t the case. “No, we were not asked to join,” Carl Dvorak, COO of Epic told the business magazine’s Zina Moukheiber. “We found out about it when you guys did.”   Perhaps Epic wouldn’t have joined anyway — Dvorak is more of a fan of existing interoperability standards — but leaving a $1.5 billion EMR company off of the eVite list is pretty conspicuous too.

In the article, by the way, Dvorak repeats Epic’s often-made claim that their product isn’t a closed platform, stating that one-third of Epic EMR transactions are with non-Epic systems.  In fact, he says that Epic can already connect with Greenway, Cerner and Allscripts, as well as NextGen. I’m not sure everybody reading this will take that statement face value.

Invited or not, Dvorak doesn’t miss the chance to get off a shot at the CommonWell guys nonetheless. He argues, as I have, that CommonWell may be more of a PR play than a real forward movement for interoperabiility. “It’s a marketing opportunity [for vendors],” he told Forbes. “They create the perception of leaders in the space, where they’re followers.”

March 7, 2013 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 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.

Top Inpatient EHR Vendors – 2013 Black Book Rankings

I think that most of you know how I feel about the various EHR ranking systems. They all have their issues, but they are another interesting data point in the search for the right EHR. Plus, the EHR ranking trends over time can be interesting. Not to mention, it’s hard not to look at a post that has rankings. It’s almost un-American not to look.

So, I figured I’d post some of the Black Book Rankings over the next week. The following are the Top Ranked EHR Vendors for Inpatient Hospital Systems, Chains and IDN (in alphabetical order).

4MEDICA
ALLSCRIPTS
CPSI
EPIC
GE HEALTHCARE
HCS EMR
HEALTH MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS
HEALTHLAND
INFOMEDIKA
KEANE
MCKESSON
MEDITECH
NEXTGEN
PROGNOSIS HIT
QUADRAMED
SEQUEL
SIEMENS
UNI/CARE
VERSASUITE

Not too many surprises on the list. Was their any Hospital EHR vendor that you think should have made it on this list? I think this list would be more interesting if it just ranked the top 5 Hospital EHR vendors.

February 22, 2013 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 5000 articles with John having written over 2000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 9.3 million times. John also recently launched two new companies: InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com, and is an advisor to docBeat. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and Google Plus.

How Danish Leaders Are Choosing Their EMR

This is something you don’t see every day. Courtesy of my always-on-top-of-things colleague John, here’s a look at the process by which Danish government authorities are selecting an EMR for the Capital Region of Denmark.

As the TBKConsult blog notes, this is a big decision. The authorities expect to spend 135 million euros on the EMR, which will have 40,000 IT users and need to support up to 12,000 clinical and administrative users at 17 hospitals and 54 other healthcare institutions simultaneously. Once installed, the system will support a region serving 2.5 million patients.

Once chosen, the EMR will be implemented with a pilot in the Capital region and eventually, by the end of 2016, rolled out throughout Eastern Denmark.

The selection process has already narrowed down the list of possibilities to five prequalified vendors: Systematic, Epic, Cerner, Cambio and Siemens.  None of the vendors have submitted official proposals yet.

What’s interesting about this isn’t the shortlist, but the means by which the authorities have decided to narrow the list down. Here’s their list of fourteen criteria by which TBKConsult expects them to do so:

  • Installed base and references
  • Clinical reputation
  • HIMSS/EMRAM level 6/7 certifications (Electronic Medical Record Adoption Model)
  • Fit for purpose – clinical processes
  • Fit for purpose – PAS
  • Fit for purpose – external integration
  • Software scalability – current installed base
  • Software scalability (SIG test)
  • Software maintainability (SIG test)
  • Price/Performance
  • Implementation capability
  • Product strategy and influence
  • Political preference
  • Staff perks and community participation

TBK Consult has also ranked the importance of each of these criteria, assigning the most weight to “Fit for purpose-clinical processes” (25 percent), “Fit for purpose-PAS” (15 percent) and “Fit for purpose-external integration” (15 percent). They rated “Implementation capability” at 10 percent and most of the rest of the criteria at 5 percent.

By their weights and ranking, vendor Cambio comes in first, Systematic second, Epic third, Cerner fourth and Siemens fifth. Intriguing. I wonder how close TBK will be when the actual results are announced?

February 19, 2013 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 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.

ACOs Need Population Health Help From EMRs

It’s hard to argue that without an EMR, Accountable Care Organizations would be somewhat adrift. After all, any structure that demands a high level of coordination between multiple organizations benefits from a shared EMR backbone.

But do EMRs do a good job of managing population health, the other key responsibility of ACO clinicians?  Let’s take a look at the criteria suggested by David Nash, MD, MBA, who’s Founding Dean of the Jefferson School of Population Health at Thomas Jefferson University. Dr. Nash notes that primary care physicians in an ACO need the following:

  • A registry to monitor and evaluate my patients – not just individually but as a population
  • Relevant data on my patients who share a specific diagnosis such as hypertension or asthma
  • Information on how my medical management and patient outcomes compare with other local practices
  • Information on where my practice stands in comparison with national benchmarks

Let’s see.  Do leading EMRS offer a registry to monitor patients as a group?  Automatically serve up data on patients who share a specific diagnosis?  Offer means of benchmarking outcomes with other local practices or national standards? No, no and no.

I can hear EMR vendors out there saying, “Hey, wait a minute. That stuff is not our problem!”  And historically, they’d probably be right.  After all, it’s a formidable enough job creating usable, flexible, reliable medical record analogues in digital form.

The truth is, however, that population health measures are central to the medical home, ACOs and the future of medicine generally.

My guess is that for the next few years, hospitals and large medical practices — even those who have launched an ACO — will be preoccupied enough with meeting Meaningful Use  measures that they won’t be demanding more extensive population measures soon.

Still, enterprise EMR vendors will need to offer tools that meet broad population health goals eventually, as the large organizations that buy their products will soon be demanding these types of functions.  The only question is when.

February 13, 2013 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 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.