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Hospitals and Ebola

Posted on October 17, 2014 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.

It seems like you can’t turn your head anywhere without hearing something about Ebola these days. I heard one TV station in Dallas being called the Ebola news. It’s probably pretty accurate considering it’s been the epicenter of the news coverage. Although, the coverage has seemed to be a little all over the place. In fact, the coverage for Ebola has hit so many places, that I’ve basically avoided almost all of the coverage. I’ve only gotten a little bit of coverage from the sources that I ready regularly. I guess I’ve also seen a few headlines on social media.

With that said, I have dug a little deeper on what’s happened with the EHR and Ebola discussions. Although, that story seems to be even more convoluted and misunderstood than the larger Ebola story. If you want something really valuable (notice the sarcasm font), check out this just released joint statement from the AMA, AHA, and ANA that basically says “We’re working together on it.” If I were a member of any of these organizations, I’d have to consider quitting.

Here’s my short synopsis on what we should know about Ebola:

1. Be thoughtful in how you avoid any communicable disease (Ebola included). That doesn’t mean you have to lock yourself in your house and never go out.
2. We need to get Ebola under control in Africa. If we don’t, then we could have Ebola become a real issue in the US.
3. EHR software can help healthcare professionals identify and track Ebola if configured properly.

There are a number of groups and organizations trying to come together to spread the EHR best practices when it comes to Ebola. I’ll be interested to hear what they find.

Those are my general thoughts on what’s happening. As I said, I’m not an all encompassing expert on the topic. Let’s all share what we know and what we’re doing in the comments.

The Changing Health IT Consulting Job Market

Posted on October 15, 2014 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.

Cassie Sturdevant has a great post up on Healthcare IT Today titled “The New Health IT Consulting Skill Set.” In the post, she talks about the changing Health IT market for consultants. She’s absolutely right that between 2010-2012 it was a white hot market and that the market has since cooled down. As she mentions, that means that clients can be much more selective in who their hire. Then, she outlines a few ways to differentiate yourself as a consultant:

  1. Operations or Clinical Background
  2. Communication Skills
  3. Multi-Faceted Knowledge

Those are some good suggestions and if you read the full article, you can find more details from Cassie on each suggestion. If I were to summarize Cassie’s suggestions, it would be that healthcare organizations will need someone with a much deeper knowledge of EHR and Healthcare IT than they had to have previously.

As I look at the healthcare consulting market going forward, I see two major areas of opportunities: EHR switching and EHR optimization.

EHR Switching – Since the majority of hospitals have now implemented some form of EHR, the new EHR implementation market is drying up. However, that’s not to say that we won’t see a lot of new EHR purchases. These new EHR Purchases will instead be hospitals that are buying a new EHR. This EHR switching takes a lot of effort and skills to do it properly. Plus, it takes an organization that has a deep understanding of both the legacy and new EHR software. Watch for the EHR switching to really spike post-meaningful use.

EHR Optimization – This is a really broad area of work. However, so many of the EHR implementations were done on shortened timelines that almost no EHR optimization occurred during the implementation. This presents a major opportunity. Every organization is going to be looking for ways that they can extract more value out of their EHR investment. Consultants that have deep knowledge about how to get this value will be in high demand.

It’s still an exciting time to be in healthcare IT with lots of opportunities. It’s not the gold rush that it was, but there is still plenty of opportunity to do amazing things with an organization’s healthcare IT.

If you’re looking for a healthcare IT job, be sure to check out these Health IT company job postings:

If your organization is looking for some healthcare IT talent, check out our Healthcare IT central career website.

Investor Wants to Take Down Epic

Posted on October 13, 2014 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.

I recently came across a really interesting comment from Chamath Palihapitiya, a venture capitalist (made his money working at Facebook), who commented on the healthcare industry and how he wanted to invest in a startup company that would take down Facebook. I embedded the full video below. His comments about EHR and Epic start at about 52:38 or you can click here to see it.

Here’s a great quote for those who can’t watch the video:

“Somebody has to go after the electronic medical record market in a really big way. Let’s go and take down this company call Epic which is this massive, old conglomerate. It’s like the IBM of healthcare.”

After saying this, he talks about how he and other VC investors like John Doerr could call people from Obama (for meaningful use stage 3) to Mayo Clinic to help a startup company try and take down Epic. He even asserts that he’d call Mayo Clinic and suggest that they should rip out Epic and go with this startup company.

Everyone reading this blog know that it won’t be nearly this simple to convince any hospital that’s on Epic to leave it behind. I agree with Chamath that it will happen at some point, but it won’t be nearly as easy as what he describes. Chamath also suggested that it might take $100 million and you might fail, but what a way to fail.

It certainly provides an interesting view into the way these venture capitalists and many startup companies approach a problem. However, I take a more nuance and practical approach of how I think that Epic will be disrupted. I think that it will require a mix of a new technology paired with a dynamic CIO that’s friends with the hospital IT leadership. You need that mix of amazing technology with insider credibility or it won’t be a success. Plus, you’re not going to go straight in and take out Epic. You’re going to start with a hospital department and create something amazing. Then, that will make the rest of the hospital jealous and you’ll expand from there until you can replace Epic. That’s how I see it playing out, but it likely won’t happen until after the MU dollars are spent.

Chamath’s comments were also interesting, because it shows that he doesn’t know the healthcare market very well. First, he said that meaningful use was part of ACA, but meaningful use is part of ARRA (the HITECH Act) and not ACA. This is a common error by many and doesn’t really impact the points he made. Second, he said that Epic is a big conglomerate. Epic is the farthest thing from a conglomerate that you can find. Has Epic ever acquired any company or technology? Cerner, McKesson, GE, etc could be called conglomerates, but Epic is not. Again, a subtle thing, but shows Chamath’s depth of understanding in the industry. It makes sense though. He isn’t an expert in healthcare IT. He’s an expert in seeing market opportunities. No doubt, disrupting Epic and Cerner would make for a massive company.

Video Interview with John Halamka, CIO at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

Posted on October 10, 2014 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.

Today, I happened upon a really laid back interview by CXOTalk with John Halamka, CIO at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and a bunch of other things (see the list at the bottom of this post). John Halamka has been doing this for a long time (20 years at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center) and so he has some interesting perspectives. Plus, he’s put himself out there all over the place including participation in the meaningful use committees.

Here are some great lines from the interview:
“There’s no problem that can’t be blamed on IT.”

“You should never go live based on a deadline. You go live when the product is ready or the people are ready to use the product.”

“If you go live too early, no one will ever forget. If you go live too late, no one will ever remember.”

Check out the full video for other interesting insights into healthcare IT and John Halamka:

John D. Halamka, MD, MS is Chief Information Officer of the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Chief Information Officer and Dean for Technology at Harvard Medical School, Chairman of the New England Health Electronic Data Interchange Network (NEHEN), CEO of MA-SHARE (the Regional Health Information Organization), Chair of the US Healthcare Information Technology Standards Panel (HITSP), and a practicing Emergency Physician.

More Epic Interoperability Discussion

Posted on October 7, 2014 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.

Looks like Epic is starting to open up and join the conversation about healthcare interoperability. The latest is an article in the New York Times which includes a few comments from Judy Faulkner, CEO of Epic. Here’s the main comments from Judy:

In 2005, when it became clear to her [Judy] that the government was not prepared to create a set of rules around interoperability, Ms. Faulkner said, her team began writing the code for Care Everywhere. Initially seen as a health information exchange for its own customers, Care Everywhere today connects hospitals all over the country as well as to various public health agencies and registries.

“Let’s say a patient is coming from U.C.L.A. and going to the University of Chicago, an Epic-to-Epic hospital. Boom. That’s easy,” Ms. Faulkner said. “These are hospitals that have agreed to the Rules of the Road, a legal contract, that says the other organization is going to take good care of the data.”

This is a really interesting approach. Blame the government for not applying a standard. Talk about how you’ve had to do it yourself and that’s why you built Care Everywhere. I wish that Judy would come out with the heart of the matter. Epic’s customers never asked for it and so they never did it. I believe that’s the simple reality. Remember that interoperability might be a big negative for many healthcare systems. If they’re interoperable, that could be a hit to revenue. Hopefully ACOs and other value based reimbursement will change this.

The key to coming clean like this though, is to come out with a deep set of initiatives that show that while it wasn’t something you worked on in the past, you’re going all in on interoperability now. We’re a very forgiving people, and if Epic (or any other large EHR vendor for that matter) came out with a plan to be interoperable, many would jump on board and forgive them for past transgressions (wherever the blame may lie).

Unfortunately, we don’t yet see this. I’d love to catch up with Judy Faulkner at CHIME and talk to her about it. The key will be to have a full spectrum interoperability plan and not just Care Everywhere that doesn’t work everywhere. Remember that Epic has charts for about 50% of the US patient population, but that’s still only 50%. Plus, of the 50% of patients they do have, a very very small percentage of them are all stored in the same Epic system. My guess would be that 99+% of patients who have a record in Epic have their medical records in other places as well. This means that Epic will need data from other non-Epic systems.

As I’ve said before, Epic wouldn’t need to wait for the government to do this. They are more than large enough to set the standard for the industry. In fact, doing so puts them in a real position of power. Plus, it’s the right thing to do for the US healthcare system.

Will the interoperability be perefect? No. It will take years and years to get everything right, but that’s ok. Progress will be better than what we have now. I love this quote from the NY Times article linked above:

“We’ve spent half a million dollars on an electronic health record system about three years ago, and I’m faxing all day long. I can’t send anything electronically over it,” said Dr. William L. Rich III, a member of a nine-person ophthalmology practice in Northern Virginia and medical director of health policy for the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

I hope that Epic continues down the path to interoperability and becomes even more aggressive. I think the climate’s right for them to make it happen. They’re in a really unique position to be able to really change the way we think and talk about interoperability. I’m interested to see if they seize the opportunity or just talk about it.

Of course, we’ve focused this article talking about Epic. That’s what happens when you’re the A list celebrity on the red carpet. People want to talk about you. The NY Times article pretty aptly points out that the other EHR vendors aren’t much more or less interoperable than Epic. Feel free to replace Epic with another large EHR vendor’s name and the story will likely read the same.

My hope is that EHR vendors won’t wait for customers to demand interoperability, but will instead make interoperability so easy that their customers will love taking part. Watch for a future series of posts on Healthcare Intoperability and why this is much easier said than done.

What Can We Expect with Meaningful Use Stage 3?

Posted on October 6, 2014 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 incomparable John Halamka, CIO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Co-Chair of the HIT Standards Committee, has a good post up on his blog talking about the future of standards, certification and meaningful use stage 3. Here’s one excerpt about MU stage 3 and EHR certificaiton:

Meaningful Use Stage 3 regulations are currently in draft and will be released as NPRM before the end of the year. My hope for these regulations is that they will be less prescriptive than previous stages, reducing the burden of implementation for providers and vendors.

It’s purely my opinion, but I’m optimistic that simplification will happen, given that the 2015 Certification Rule is likely to decouple Meaningful Use and certification. Certification is likely to be incremental year to year without the tidal wave of requirements we’ve seen in the past. Certification of health IT (not just EHRs) will be with us for a long time and may be leveraged by more programs than just the EHR incentive programs. Imagine that modules for patient generated data (such as wearables), health information exchange (HISPs), and analytics services (such as those used for care management by ACOs) could be certified and used in any combination to achieve outcomes.

I’m really hopeful that Halamka is right and that MU stage 3 will be dramatically simpler. However, in government work, I’m rarely confident that something will be simple. In fact, his comments about ongoing certification are sad too. Anyone who’s had to work with supposedly certified CCD documents from multiple EHR vendors that should be “standard” knows what I mean. Because of examples like this, I’m not a fan of government certification setting the standard, but Halamka might be right that they may use EHR certification to try.

What will be interesting to me is what motivation organizations will have to continue on with meaningful use stage 3. The EHR incentive money will be gone. Certainly the EHR penalties are a pretty sizable motivation for many organizations. Although, probably not as sizable as many think when you compare it against even the MU 2 burden (another reason why MU 3 needs to be simpler). Also, I still wouldn’t be surprised if we had an ICD-10 Delay-esque move by the AMA or some other healthcare organization to remove the EHR penalties. It will be a little harder since the penalties are hard revenue that has to be accounted for, but don’t put it past a good lobbyist.

ACOs Stuck In Limbo In Trying To Build HIT Infrastructure

Posted on September 26, 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.

Though they try to present themselves differently, ACOs are paper tigers. While they may be bound together by the toughest contracts an army of lawyers can devise, they really aren’t integrated in a meaningful way.

After all, the hospitals and medical groups that make up the ACO still have their own leadership, they don’t generally hold assets in common other than funds to support the ACO’s operations, and they’re definitely not in a great position to integrate technically.

So it comes as no surprise that a recent study has found that ACOs are having a hard time with interoperability and rolling out advanced health IT functions.

The study, a joint effort by Premier and the eHealth Initative, surveyed 62 ACOs. It found that 86% had an EMR, 74% had a disease registry, 58% had a clinical decision support system, and 28% had the ability to build a master patient index.

Adding advanced IT functions is prohibitively difficult for many, researchers said. Of the group, 100% said accessing external data was difficult, 95% said it was too costly, 95% cite the lack of interoperability, 90% cite the lack of funding or return on investment and 88% said integration between various EMRs and other sources of data was a barrier to interoperability.

So what you’ve got here is groups of providers who are expected to deliver efficient, coordinated care or risk financial penalties, but don’t have the ability to track patients moving from provider to provider effectively. This is a recipe for disaster for ACOs, which are having trouble controlling risk even without the added problem of out of synch health IT systems.

By the way, if ACOs hope to make things easier by merging with some of the partners, that may not work either. The FTC — the government’s antitrust watchdog — has begun to take a hard look at many hospital and physician mergers. While hospitals say that they are acquiring their peers to meet care coordination goals, the FTC isn’t buying it, arguing that doctors and hospitals can generally achieve the benefits of coordinated care without a full merger.

This leaves ACOs in a very difficult position. If they risk the FTC’s ire by merging with other providers, but can’t achieve interoperability as separate entities, how are they going to meet the goals they are required to meet by health insurers? (I think there’s little doubt, at this point, that truly successful ACOs will have to find a way to integrate health IT systems smoothly.)  It’s an ugly situation that’s only likely to get uglier.

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.

Is No Flex-IT the Best thing for EHR and Healthcare?

Posted on September 24, 2014 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.

Strategically placed during National Health IT Week, 17 healthcare organizations sent a letter to HHS requesting that the meaningful use reporting period for 2015 be adjusted from 365 days to 90 days. Along with that, the Flex-IT act was introduced to congress in order to legislate this change. It’s always hard to predict what congress will do, but many believe that the Flex-IT act will get tagged on to something else and get passed. We’ll see if that indeed happens.

What everyone I talk to agrees is that the 365 day meaningful use stage 2 reporting period is going to be impossible for hospitals to meet. Sure, a few hospitals might make some herculean effort and meet it, but they’ll be so few and far between that they’ll be a rounding error.

What would it mean to healthcare and meaningful use if almost every hospital opts out of the meaningful use program? This isn’t too hard to imagine. A large portion of the meaningful use money has already been spent and the penalties don’t look that bad when you consider the costs and risks associated with the all or nothing meaningful use program.

If the MU reporting period doesn’t change, I think it spells the death of meaningful use. Sure, the program will subsist for those who have attested, but it will be a defunct program with so few participants that the program will have little impact. Plus, we’ll see a wave of efforts to make sure that those penalties for not being meaningful users of an EHR are removed much like has been done with the SGR fix year after year.

The Flex-IT act would at least keep meaningful use on life support. MU 2 is much harder, but with a change to a 90 day reporting period many will do it to avoid the penalties and get the last bit of EHR incentive money. If we want meaningful use to survive, then the Flex-IT act (or something that does something similar) is going to be essential to its future.

I’m just personally not sure that the Flex-IT act is such a great thing for EHR or the industry. Is it better to keep meaningful use on life support or bite the bullet now and have meaningful use die on the vine.

One might argue that meaningful use has accomplished it’s main goal: adoption of EHR software. It’s dramatically accelerated the adoption of EHR software. Would it be such a bad thing for meaningful use to disappear now? With MU gone, we could return to a more rationale EHR market. I guess this is where I’m torn on whether getting the Flex-IT act passed is a good or a bad idea.

What do you think? Is the Flex-IT act a good idea or should we just fall on the sword now as opposed to prolonging the regulation?

Are EHR Complex Because Now We Can Make Them Complex?

Posted on September 22, 2014 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.

I recently had a chance to do some late night research for this blog at a QuickCare center near my house (4 sutures later and I should be fine).  While I was there I dropped the fact that I was an EHR blogger so I could get them to talk about their experiences with EHR. As expected, they had strong feelings about EHR and we’re happy to share. In fact, the next week they were switching EHR software in a big bang style switchover with 4 hours of training before the switch. God bless them on their conversion.

Although, one of the comments that struck me most was from the nurse who said, “I use to use MEDITECH and it was so simple to use.”  They then went on to talk about the old DOS-like user interface that MEDITECH employed and how easy it was to use.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this response and it made me wonder, Are we making EHR more complex because now we can?  Think about it for a second. In the DOS based world, you couldn’t make an application complex because the interface couldn’t support it.

I’m not suggesting we go back to a DOS based interface. However, maybe there’s some lessons to be learned from that simpler time.

For example, could a number of keyboard commands be integrated into the EHR to make it more effecient. You might remember that the DOS-based environment was all keyboard based which was part of its efficiency. It made for a bit more learning curve, but once you mastered it, it was incredibly fast.

One thing that is missing from EHR today is simplicity. Maybe looking back might help us remember a simpler day.