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5 Challenges for Healthcare That Won’t Go Away

Posted on May 4, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 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 and LinkedIn.

There are some challenges in healthcare that will likely be with us forever. As soon as we think we have our arms around it, it grows or changes. It’s the nature of life and we have to constantly deal with these challenges as healthcare leaders. In a whitepaper titled “Healthcare Ops Management: 5 Trends You Can’t Ignore In 2016” 5 of these challenges are highlighted:
5 Healthcare Challenges
You can download the full whitepaper for free if you want to dive into more detail on each of these 5 challenges. However, it struck me that these 5 challenges are healthcare challenges that likely won’t go away:

  • Patients are Consumers
  • Patient Safety
  • Emergency Preparedness
  • Data-Rich Environment
  • Emphasis on Cost Reduction

Think about the list above. Will patients become less consumers? Will patient safety ever become less of a concern? Disasters are only picking up, so will we ever not need to prepared for emergencies? Can anyone imagine healthcare having less data? Would a leader ever say to not worry about cost reduction?

All of these challenges (and likely others) are things that healthcare leaders are going to have to deal with going forward. I wonder how many healthcare CIOs have a plan for how they’re going to prepare their organization for each of these challenges on an ongoing basis. I’m sure many have some point projects, but likely lack an overall vision for each of these areas. A plan for each of these 5 challenges would be a great place to start.

Healthcare Analytics Biggest Competitor – Excel

Posted on March 16, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 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 and LinkedIn.

This tweet highlighted an interesting observation I had after experiencing so many healthcare analytics pitches going into and at HIMSS. I’ll set aside the email comment for now (email is still very powerful if done right) and instead focus on Excel. Here’s what I discovered about healthcare analytics:

Excel is a healthcare analytics company’s biggest competitor.

It’s crazy to think about, but it’s true. When a healthcare organization is evaluating healthcare analytics platform the “legacy system” that they’re usually trying to replace is Excel. I can’t tell you how many times I heard analytics vendors say that “Hospital A was doing all of this previously on a bunch of Excel spreadsheets.” If you work at a hospital, you know that you have your own garden of Excel spreadsheets that are used to run your healthcare organization as well.

When you think about the features of Excel, it’s no wonder why it’s so popular in healthcare and why it’s a challenging competitor for most healthcare organizations. First, it’s free. Ok, it’s not technically free, but every healthcare organization has to buy it for a lot of reasons so that cost is already in their standard budget. Second, every computer in the organization has a copy of Excel on it. Third, the majority of people in healthcare are familiar with how to use Excel. Since we love to talk about healthcare IT usability, Excel is extremely usable. Fourth, Excel is surprisingly powerful. I know many healthcare analytics organizations could argue its limitations, but Excel is more powerful than most people realize.

That’s not to say that Excel doesn’t have its weaknesses. I’m sure that most organizations have experienced time wasted trying to figure out which Excel file has the accurate data or is the most up to date. No doubt you’ve experienced the multiple copy problem where 2 people are editing the same file and now you have 2 versions of the same file that need to be merged. Document management software has helped with this situation in many regards as it locks the file when someone starts to edit it and things like that. However, it’s still often a problem.

Another problem with Excel as compared with a true analytics platform is when you want to go in and slice and dice the data. What’s possible with a true analytics platform is so much more powerful when you want to really dive in and chop up the data in unique ways.

While possible in Excel, most uses of Excel are backwards facing data analysis and tracking. You can do some near real-time data analysis in Excel, but newer analytics platforms do a much better job of real time analytics using the latest data.

Of course, the biggest problem long term with Excel is that it can’t scale. Once you reach a certain amount of data points or a certain amount of complexity in the data, Excel falls on its face. However, most healthcare organizations are still working on small data, so Excel’s worked fine.

I’m sure there are many more issues. Hopefully some analytics vendors will chime in with more examples in the comments or on their own blogs. However, it’s worth acknowledging that for many organizations it’s really hard for them to find a healthcare analytics solutions that’s so much better than Excel. Plus, many of these expensive analytics solutions fail when it comes to some of the things that makes Excel great (ie. Free, Usable, Ubiquitous).

Future Ready Technology and Data Discussion at the Dell Healthcare Think Tank

Posted on March 11, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 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 and LinkedIn.

I’m lucky enough to be heading to the SXSW conference again this year. I’m excited to see what interesting things are being said and done at a conference like SXSW. The broad variety of people that attend SXSW provide unique insights and perspectives that you often can’t find at other conferences. I’m sure I’ll be doing a post or two about the things I find at SXSW. Let me know if there’s something I should see while I’m there.

During SXSW I’m also going to slip away from the SXSW activities in order to take part in the Dell Healthcare Think Tank event (not associated with SXSW). I believe this is the 4th year I’ve been able to participate in the event and Dell always does a great job bringing together amazing people to talk about the challenges of healthcare IT. This year I expect no different.

The great part of the Dell Healthcare Think Tank event is that the full event is live streamed for free online so you can watch the discussion no matter where you’re at on Tuesday March 15th from 1-4 PM CT. Plus, the #DoMoreHIT hashtag on Twitter will be extremely alive during the Think Tank event. So you can follow along and even add your own comments and questions on the hashtag as you participate in the event from wherever you might be. Don’t be surprised if we bring up a Twitter comment on the live stream.

This year Dell has done a great job bringing together a diverse panel from many parts of healthcare and I’m especially excited by a number of panelists that represent the patient voice in the discussion. You can see the full list of moderators and panelists below.

Moderators:

  • Mandi Bishop – Healthcare Analytics Innovations & Consulting Practice Lead, Dell, #HIT100 influencer,@MandiBPro
  • Nick van Terheyden, MD – Chief Medical Officer, Dell, @drnic1

Panelists:

Future Ready Technology and Data in Healthcare - #DoMoreHIT

I hope you’ll take the time and join me on the 2016 #DoMoreHIT Healthcare Think Tank live stream and #DoMoreHIT hashgtag on Tuesday March 15th from 1-4 PM CT.

Will Data Dominate Healthcare Headlines in 2016?

Posted on January 15, 2016 I Written By

Colin Hung is the co-founder of the #hcldr (healthcare leadership) tweetchat one of the most popular and active healthcare social media communities on Twitter. Colin speaks, tweets and blogs regularly about healthcare, technology, marketing and leadership. He is currently an independent marketing consultant working with leading healthIT companies. Colin is a member of #TheWalkingGallery. His Twitter handle is: @Colin_Hung.

The lethargy of the first few days after the holidays are the perfect time for contemplation of the year ahead. 2016, in my opinion, is shaping up to be an inflection point for healthcare:

  • Meaningful Use is entering its final stage (good riddance!)
  • The full impact of ICD-10 will begin to be felt this year
  • High deductible plans will cause strain on everyone’s bottom line
  • The US election promises to bring new political headwinds no matter who wins the White House

However there is one topic that I believe will dominate the headline this year – DATA and here’s why.

Data Breaches
IBM declared 2015 to be “The Year of Healthcare Security Breach”. According to their study, over 100 million healthcare records were compromised last year. Unfortunately with healthcare cybersecurity spending lagging behind other industries, health records will remain a relatively easy target for hackers in 2016. Until we bake data security into the design of our systems and processes, healthcare will continue to suffer from high-profile breaches and we will continue to read about them throughout the year.

Personal Health Data
Fitness trackers are everywhere. Market leader FitBit sold 4.8 million devices in the third quarter of 2015, almost double the number from the year before. At the recent Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas (#CES16) John Lynn reported that there could be as many as 700 health tracking devices currently on the market. The proliferation of these devices means that we are collecting exponentially more personal health data. As yet, this data has not been used by healthcare providers to assist with diagnosis or treatment of patients. In 2016 I suspect we’ll be hearing a lot about this data – who owns it, how secure it is (or isn’t), how it gets used and when it will be standardized.

Data Sharing (aka interoperability)
The key to unlocking the value of health data is allowing everyone within the healthcare ecosystem to share it in a frictionless manner. That means all doctors, nurses, clinics, hospitals, employers, payers, etc. should be able to easily send and receive patient health data. In 2016 we will be hearing about pioneering organizations who are making data interoperability a priority. We will also hear stories about patients and their employers rising up to tear down the walls of healthcare data silos. Finally, I believe that we will be hearing from a number of startups with unique solutions to the interoperability challenge.

Big Data
Collecting and sharing data is one thing. Deriving meaningful value from that data is a whole different challenge. Luckily that’s where #BigData efforts like IBM’s Watson come in. By tapping into the massive health data stores, Watson’s algorithms are assisting in diagnosis and helping physicians make treatment recommendations. It’s capable of making correlations that would be impossible for a person to do. As more data is made available to Watson, it gets “smarter”. In 2016 we will continue to see Watson and other healthcare #BigData efforts capture headlines as they find new connections between symptoms, disease and treatments.

2016 will be a very interesting year in healthcare. I am excited about the next 350 days. What are you excited about this year? What do you think the big headlines of 2016 will be?

New Data Driven Perspectives in Healthcare w/ @MandiBPro @Ashish_P @techguy

Posted on December 10, 2015 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 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 and LinkedIn.

UPDATE: Here’s the recorded version of our interview (Ashish had video issues, so he joined audio only)

As part of our ongoing series of Healthcare Scene interviews (see all our past Healthcare Scene interviews on YouTube), we’re excited to announce our next interview with Mandi Bishop and Ashish Patel where we’ll be talking about New Data Driven Perspectives in Healthcare. If you’d like to watch the interview live and get your questions answered, you can join us on blab, Monday, December 13th at Noon ET (9 AM PT).

In this interviews I’m lucky to have two of the most knowledgeable people in healthcare when it comes to various healthcare data sources and how to extract value out of that data. Plus, they’ll offer ways in which data has changed their perspective on healthcare. I’m also excited to hear about the new data sources that are available for health care and how we are using and will use that data to improve healthcare as we know it.


Here are a few more details about our panelists:

You can watch our interview on Blab or in the embed below. We’ll be interviewing our panelists for the first 30-40 minutes of the blab and then we’ll open up to the audience for questions for the rest of the hour. We hope you can join us live. We’ll also share the recorded video after the event.

Why and Who Should Ensure Quality Health Data?

Posted on August 12, 2015 I Written By

Erin Head is the Director of Health Information Management (HIM) and Quality for an acute care hospital in Titusville, FL. She is a renowned speaker on a variety of healthcare and social media topics and currently serves as CCHIIM Commissioner for AHIMA. She is heavily involved in many HIM and HIT initiatives such as information governance, health data analytics, and ICD-10 advocacy. She is active on social media on Twitter @ErinHead_HIM and LinkedIn. Subscribe to Erin's latest HIM Scene posts here.

Contrary to common belief, technology does not own health data. Data exists as a result of the input of multiple sources of information throughout each patient’s healthcare continuum. The data does not exist only because of the technology but rather because of the careful selection of meaningful data items that need to be captured and at what frequency (ie. instantly, daily, weekly, etc.).

We in healthcare collect granular data on anything ranging from demographics, past medical, surgical, and social history, medication dosage and usage, health issues and problem lists, disease and comorbidity prevalence, vital statistics, and everything in between. We collect data on financial performance with benchmarks and reimbursement trends using individual data elements from accounting transactions. Healthcare organizations have been collecting the same or similar data for decades but never before have we been able to operate with such efficiency as we do now thanks to advances in technology.

We have become so data rich in the healthcare environment in a short amount of time and this data continues to multiply daily. But are we still information poor? When we continue to generate data but fail to aggregate the data into quality information, we are essentially wasting bandwidth and storage space with meaningless and disconnected data.

Every time patients have interactions with healthcare providers and facilities, data is generated. Over time, the data that is generated could (and should) be used to paint a picture of trends in patient demographics, population health, best practices in care, comorbidities and disease management, payment models, and clinical outcomes. This information becomes useful in meeting regulatory requirements, overcoming reimbursement hurdles, clinical quality initiatives, and even promotional and marketing material for healthcare organizations. This data could have opposite effects if not properly governed and utilized.

It goes back to the saying “garbage in, garbage out.” If the data cannot be standardized or trusted, it is useless. Input of data must be controlled with data models, hard-stops, templates, and collaborative development of clinical content. Capturing wrong or inconsistent data in healthcare can be dangerous to the patients and healthcare quality measurements as well as leading to unwanted legal actions for clinicians.

So who is the right person for the job of ensuring quality data and information? I have seen bidding wars take place over the ownership of the data and tasks surrounding data analysis, database administration, and data governance. Information Technology/Systems wants to provide data ownership due to the skills in the development and implementation of the technology needed to generate and access data. Clinical Informatics professionals feel they are appropriate for the task due to the understanding of clinical workflow and EHR system optimization. Financial, Accounting, Revenue Integrity, and Decision Support departments feel comfortable handling data but may have motives focused too heavily on the financial impact. Other areas may provide input on clinical quality initiatives and govern clinician education and compliance but may be primarily focused on the input of data instead of the entire data lifecycle.

When searching for an appropriate home for health data and information governance, organizations should look no further than Health Information Management (HIM) professionals. Information management is what HIM does and has always done. We have adapted and developed the data analytics skills needed to support the drive for quality data abstraction and data usage (just look at the education and credentialing criteria). HIM departments are a hub of information, both financial and clinical therefore governing data and information is an appropriate responsibility for this area. HIM also ensures an emphasis on HIPAA guidelines to keep data secure and in the right hands. Ensuring quality data is one of the most important tasks in healthcare today and trusting this task to HIM In collaboration with IT, Informatics, and other departments is the logical and appropriate choice.

If you’d like to receive future HIM posts by Erin in your inbox, you can subscribe to future HIM Scene posts here.

Data is Good. Context is Better.

Posted on August 10, 2015 I Written By

Colin Hung is the co-founder of the #hcldr (healthcare leadership) tweetchat one of the most popular and active healthcare social media communities on Twitter. Colin speaks, tweets and blogs regularly about healthcare, technology, marketing and leadership. He is currently an independent marketing consultant working with leading healthIT companies. Colin is a member of #TheWalkingGallery. His Twitter handle is: @Colin_Hung.

Last week I was asked by a colleague to explain a line I used during a presentation: “giving patients access to health data isn’t enough, we need to provide patients with context to go along with it. In fact context may be more valuable than the data itself”. My colleague, new to healthcare, didn’t understand the difference between data and context.

My usual go-to for explaining data vs context is this Wired Magazine article where they re-imagined standard medical lab tests. The blood test in particular clearly illustrates the concepts of data and context. On the standard blood test, vitamin D levels are simply shown as a number: 22 ng/mL. For most people, including me, this number means very little. Is it too low? Is it too high? Is it just right? In the re-imagined test, not only is the number presented, but it is placed on a scale that shows the patient what it truly means:
Reimagined Blood Test - Vitamin D

A few days ago, however, I found a more easy-to-understand example.

I happened to catch the nightly news on one of Toronto’s local television stations, Citynews. What caught my attention was their weather forecast. Citynews has always presented the weather by showing a variety of weather data: temperatures, humidity readings and barometric pressures. I’m sure many of you will find the following graphic very familiar:

CityTV Weather Graphic 5 - Normal Forecast

In the past few years, Citynews included more advanced weather metrics like UV readings, pollen counts and air quality indices. The latter two metrics are helpful to allergy suffers and those with respiratory issues. When pollen counts are high and air quality is low, people who are sensitive know to take medication and/or minimize their time outdoors.

But therein lies the problem with weather data. Presenting just the numbers means that the viewer has to put that information into their own context. For example, a 100F temperature combined with 40% humidity means that being outside is going to be uncomfortably sticky and hot. But see what you have to do there? You have to take the two data elements and then put them into context based on your own experience. The data only becomes useful when you are able to apply the right context.

Last week, however, I noticed that Citynews had moved past providing weather data and began providing true context about the weather. Here is the graphic that caught my eye:

CityTV Weather Graphic 3 - Context

To create this graphic, Citynews combined multiple data elements including:

  • Temperature
  • Humidex
  • UV
  • Pollen
  • Air quality
  • Chance of showers
  • Winds

I was blown away (excuse the weather pun) by what the Citynews weather team had done. They put weather data into context and the result was truly valuable information for viewers. Instead a collection of numbers, Citynews had provided context.

Now admittedly weather data is a bit simpler than clinical data, but if a local weather station can put data into context why can’t we do the same in healthcare?

Of course, healthcare and HealthIT vendors need to solve the problem of patient access to data first. But I don’t believe simply dumping data into the hands of patients and care givers is enough to change health behavior. To truly improve the health of patients and to drive down costs, patients need more than just number and facts. Patients need context.

Step 1: Access

Step 2: Context

Why Should You Invest in Health Information Governance?

Posted on July 14, 2015 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 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 and LinkedIn.

Hospitals are becoming large data centers of health information. In some ways, they’ve always been the storage facility of health information, but how we store, transfer, access, and share health information is dramatically changing in our new digital world. Plus, the volume of information we collect and store is expanding dramatically. This is why health information governance is becoming an extremely important topic in every hospital.

In order to better understand what’s happening with health Information Governance, I sat down with Rita Bowen, Senior Vice President of HIM and Privacy Officer at HealthPort, to talk about the topic. We shot these videos as one long video, but then chopped them up into shorter versions so you could more easily watch the ones that interest you most. You can find 2 of the videos below and 3 more over on EMR and HIPAA.

Who Should Manage Information Governance at Healthcare Organizations?

Why Invest in Health Information Governance?

How Much Time Do You Spend Cleaning Your Data?

Posted on June 29, 2015 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 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 and LinkedIn.

I recently came across this really great blog post talking about data scientists wasting their time. Here’s a quote from the article (which quotes the NYT):

“Data scientists, according to interviews and expert estimates, spend 50 percent to 80 percent of their time mired in [the] mundane labor of collecting and preparing unruly digital data, before it can be explored for useful nuggets.”
– Steve Lohr, NYT

Then, they have this extraordinary quote from Monica Rogati, VP for Data Science at Jawbone:

“Data scientists are forced to act more like data janitors than actual scientists.”

Every data scientist will tell you this is a problem. They spend far too much time cleaning up the data and they all wish they could spend more time actually looking at the data to find insights. I’ve seen this all over health care. In fact, I’d say we have more data janitors than data scientists in healthcare. Sadly, many healthcare data projects clean up the data and then don’t have any budget left to actually do something with the data.

The solution to this problem is easy to write and much harder to do. The solution is to create an expectation and a culture of clean data in your organization.

I predict that over the next 5-10 years, healthcare data is going to become the backbone of healthcare data decision making. Those organizations that houses are a mess are going to be torn down and sold off to the hospital that’s kept a clean house. Is your hospital data clean or dirty?

Healthcare Analytics is Everything and Nothing

Posted on January 13, 2015 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 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 and LinkedIn.

Healthcare Analytics has been the buzzed word ever since last year’s HIMSS. It’s been included in pretty much every healthcare IT company imaginable. I was talking to an EHR consulting company today and I asked if they were moving into some sort of analytics offering. As we discussed the idea further, we realized that they’re not really going into healthcare analytics specifically, but that many of the projects they see as the future of healthcare IT involve analytics.

As I think over this discussion, it’s easy for me to see how healthcare analytics is involved in everything, but that the term itself means nothing.

If I dive a little deeper into this subject it reminds me of a video interview I watched last night with a popular venture capitalist. At one point in the conversation he casually said, “Once again it goes back to the data. I guess it all goes back to the data, because we think data is at the core of the future of everything we’re investing in.”

While this comment didn’t necessarily apply to healthcare, it very could have been about healthcare. The future of healthcare is about the data. It’s about how an organization leverages data to improve the care they provide a patient. EHR was just the first step in making much of the healthcare data digital. However, this new wave of wearables and health sensors is bringing another form of data to healthcare. Genomics is bringing another wave of data to healthcare. Watson is reading through all the medical studies and making that data useful and actionable for a doctor.

It’s easy for me to say that the future of healthcare is going to be dependent on data. It’s at the core of everything that we will do. Going full circle, healthcare analytics is one way of describing how you take the data and make it useful. So, it makes sense that however you look at the future of healthcare IT, you probably have some sort of healthcare analytics involved in what you’re doing. It’s all about how you slice the data.