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Hospitals Excited By Telehealth, Consumers Not So Much

Posted on December 29, 2017 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

When telehealth first emerged as a major commercial phenomenon, consumers were the main market targeted by providers, especially direct-to-consumer models like Teladoc and American Well. But if a new research report is right, the dynamics of the telehealth market have changed substantially, with hospitals and health systems investing heavily in telehealth and consumers hanging back.

The study, which was conducted by telehealth solutions provider Avizia, found that while hospitals and health systems are making increasingly large bets on telehealth, including infrastructure, training and process re-engineering, patients aren’t matching their enthusiasm.

Consumers who do access telehealth seem happy by what they find. When Avizia asked them to rate their telehealth experiences on a scale from 1 to 10, with 10 rating it as a “great experience,” nearly two-thirds ranked their experiences between 8 and 10. Also, consumers who were using telehealth said that they like the time savings and convenience it could offer (59%), cost savings due to a lack of travel expenses and lower wait times to see clinicians (55%).

That being said, many consumers haven’t gotten on board yet. In fact, roughly eight out of 10 consumers told Avizia that they weren’t well versed in accessing telehealth, nor did they know whether their insurer would pay for it.

Providers, for their part, have ambitious plans for telehealth use. According to the study, the top one was the ability to reach or expand access to patients (72% of respondents). However, they face several obstacles, the study notes, including problems with getting reimbursed by health plans (41%), program expenses (40%) and resistance from clinicians (22%).

The Avizia results suggest that hospitals are still wrestling with many of the problems they’ve faced over the past few years in implementing telemedicine.

For example, a study by KPMG released in mid-2016 noted that about 25% of the 120 providers it studied had implemented telehealth and telemedicine programs which have achieved financial stability and improved efficiency. Thirty-five percent of KPMG respondents said that they didn’t have a virtual care program in place, though 40% had said they had just implemented a program.

Another study, released earlier this year by Reach Health, notes that 50% of hospitals and health systems are beginning to shift department-based telehealth programs to enterprise-based programs, which suggests that they no longer see virtual care as an experimental technology. They still aren’t rolling out these larger programs yet.

Still, the fact that hospitals are continuing to push ahead with telemedicine, and even make meaningful investments, makes it clear that they’re not going to be put off by current telemedicine obstacles. When the reimbursement tide floods the gates, I’m betting that hospital telemedicine programs will go from “not unusual” to “omnipresent.”

Pennsylvania Health Orgs Agree to Joint $1 Billion Network Dev Effort

Posted on December 27, 2017 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

If the essence of deal-making is putting your money where your mouth is, a new agreement between Pennsylvania healthcare giants fit the description. They’ve certainly bitten off a mouthful.

Health organizations, Penn State Health and Highmark Health, have agreed to make a collective investment of more than $1 billion. That is a pretty big number to swallow, even for two large organizations, though it very well may take even more to develop the kind of network they have in mind.

The two are building out what they describe as a “community-based healthcare network,” which they’re designing to foster collaboration with community doctors and keep care local across its service areas.  Makes sense, though the initial press release doesn’t do much to explain how the two are going to make that happen.

The agreement between Penn State and Highmark includes efforts to support population health, the next step in accepting value-based payment. The investors’ plans include the development of population health management capabilities and the use of analytics to manage chronic conditions. Again, pretty much to be expected these days, though their goals are more likely to actually be met given the money being thrown at the problem.

That being said, one possible aspect of interest to this deal is its inclusion of a regionally-focused academic medical center. Penn State plans to focus its plans around teaching hospital Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, a 548-bed hospital affiliated with more than 1,100 clinicians. In my experience, too few agreements take enough advantage of hospital skills in their zeal to spread their arms around large areas, so involving the Medical Center might offer extra benefits to the agreement.

Highmark Health, for its part, is an ACO which encompasses healthcare business serving almost 50 million consumers cutting across all 50 states.  Clearly, an ACO with national reach has every reason in the world to make this kind of investment.

I don’t know what the demographics of the Penn State market are, but one can assume a few things about them, given the the big bucks the pair are throwing at the deal:

  • That there’s a lot of well-insured consumers in the region, which will help pay for a return on the huge investment the players are making
  • That community doctors are substantially independent, but the two allies are hoping to buy a bunch of practices and solidify their network
  • That prospective participants in the network are lacking the IT tools they need to make value-based schemes work, which is why, in part, the two players need to spend so heavily

I know that ACOs and healthcare systems are already striking deals like this one. If you’re part of a health system hoping to survive the next generation of reimbursement, big budgets are necessary, as are new strategies better adapted to value-based reimbursement.

Still, this is a pretty large deal by just about any measure. If it works out, we might end up with new benchmarks for building better-distributed healthcare networks.

Hospital Holiday Cartoons – Fun Friday

Posted on December 22, 2017 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.

Happy Holidays to all of you! It’s the Friday before Christmas, so we thought we’d go for some holiday humor. Hopefully you have a great weekend and a great holiday.


It’s amazing what technology can replace. I still think most technology will augment what we’re doing in healthcare, but if we’re not involved the tools will replace us.


I guess we all have issues to deal with and why mental health is so important and often forgotten.


Far too many hospitals have really felt this one with all the healthcare mergers that have happened.

Happy Holidays to each of you! Thanks for reading!

Breaking Bad: Why Poor Patient Identification is Rooted in Integration, Interoperability

Posted on December 20, 2017 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Dan Cidon, Chief Technology Officer, NextGate.

The difficulty surrounding accurate patient ID matching is sourced in interoperability and integration.

Coordinated, accountable, patient-centered care is reliant on access to quality patient data. Yet, healthcare continues to be daunted by software applications and IT systems that don’t communicate or share information effectively. Health data, spread across multiple source systems and settings, breeds encumbrances in the reconciliation and de-duplication of patient records, leading to suboptimal outcomes and avoidable costs of care. For organizations held prisoner by their legacy systems, isolation and silo inefficiencies worsen as IT environments become increasingly more complex, and the growth and speed to which health data is generated magnifies.

A panoramic view of individuals across the enterprise is a critical component for value-based care and population health initiatives. Accurately identifying patients, and consistently matching them with their data, is the foundation for informed clinical decision-making, collaborative care, and healthier, happier populations. As such, the industry has seen a number of high-profile initiatives in the last few years attempting to address the issue of poor patient identification.

The premature end of CHIME’s National Patient ID Challenge last month should be a sobering industry reminder that a universal solution may never be within reach. However, the important lesson emanating in the wake of the CHIME challenge is that technology alone will not solve the problem. Ultimately, the real challenge of identity management and piecing together a longitudinal health record has to do with integration and interoperability. More specifically, it revolves around the demographics and associated identifiers dispersed across multiple systems.

Because these systems often have little reason to communicate with one another, and because they store their data through fragmented architecture, an excessive proliferation of identifiers occurs. The result is unreliable demographic information, triggering further harm in data synchronization and integrity.

Clearly, keeping these identifiers and demographics as localized silos of data is an undesirable model for healthcare that will never function properly. While secondary information such as clinical data should remain local, the core identity of a patient and basic demographics including name, gender, date of birth, address and contact information shouldn’t be in the control of any single system. This information must be externalized from these insulated applications to maintain accuracy and consistency across all connected systems within the delivery network.

However, there are long-standing and relatively simple standards in place, such as HL7 PIX/PDQ, that allow systems to feed a central demographic repository and query that repository for data. Every year, for the past eight years, NextGate has participated in the annual IHE North American Connectathon – the healthcare industry’s largest interoperability testing event. Year after year, we see hundreds of other participating vendors demonstrating that with effective standards, it is indeed possible to externalize patient identity.

In the United Kingdom, for example, there has been slow but steady success of the Patient Demographic Service – a relatively similar concept of querying a central repository for demographics and maintaining a global identifier. While implementation of such a national scale service in the U.S. is unlikely in the near-term, the concept of smaller scale regional registries is clearly an achievable goal. And every deployment of our Enterprise Master Patient Index (EMPI) is a confirmation that such systems can work and do provide value.

What is disappointing, is that very few systems in actual practice today will query the EMPI as part of the patient intake process. Many, if not most, of the systems we integrate with will only fulfill half of the bargain, namely they will feed the EMPI with demographic data and identifiers. This is because many systems have already been designed to produce this outbound communication for purposes other than the management of demographic data. When it comes to querying the EMPI for patient identity, this requires a fundamental paradigm shift for many vendors and a modest investment to enhance their software. Rather than solely relying on their limited view of patient identity, they are expected to query an outside source and integrate that data into their local repository.

This isn’t rocket science, and yet there are so few systems in production today that initiate this simple step. Worse yet, we see many healthcare providers resorting to band aids to remedy the deficiency, such as resorting to ineffective screen scraping technology to manually transfer data from the EMPI to their local systems.

With years of health IT standards in place that yield a centralized and uniform way of managing demographic data, the meager pace and progress of vendors to adopt them is troubling. It is indefensible that a modern registration system, for instance, wouldn’t have this querying capability as a default module. Yet, that is what we see in the field time and time again.

In other verticals where banking and manufacturing are leveraging standards-based exchange at a much faster pace, it really begs the question: how can healthcare accelerate this type of adoption? As we prepare for the upcoming IHE Connectathon in January, we place our own challenge to the industry to engage in an open and frank dialogue to identify what the barriers are, and how can vendors be incentivized, so patients can benefit from the free flow of accurate, real-time data from provider to provider.

Ultimately, accurate patient identification is a fundamental component to leveraging IT for the best possible outcomes. Identification of each and every individual in the enterprise helps to ensure better care coordination, informed clinical decision making, and improved quality and safety.

Dan Cidon is CTO and co-founder NextGate, a leader in healthcare identity management, managing nearly 250 million lives for health systems and HIEs in the U.S. and around the globe.

Excitement Mixed with Realism at Top Of Mind 2018

Posted on December 18, 2017 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 recent #TopOfMind2018 conference hosted by the Center of Connected Medicine was one of the best events of 2017. A stellar lineup of speakers was matched by an equally outstanding group of attendees. Together this combination created an atmosphere of realistic excitement – a unique mixture of exuberant enthusiasm for the latest healthcare technology (Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Cybersecurity, Home Monitoring) tempered by sobering doses of reality (lack of patient access and poor usability).

One of the most engaging presentations was delivered by Jini Kim, Founder and CEO at Nuna. She opened by recounting her hilarious first-ever conversation with President Obama. Very early one morning (around 3am PT), Kim got a call on her cell phone from an unknown Washington number. When she answered the person on the other end introduced himself as President Obama. Kim reacted as I’m sure many of us would – with disbelief – and said as much to the caller. Obama laughed and said “I get that a lot, but seriously this is the President of the United States and I’m calling because your country needs you”. Kim compared that moment to feeling like a superhero being invited to join the Avengers.

Kim was one of six people handpicked by the President and his advisors to fix the failed Healthcare.gov website. For the incredible behind-the-scenes look at how this team was recruited and how they fixed the site, check out this amazing Time article.

In front of a slide that showed her company’s mantra, “Every row of data is a life whose story should be told with dignity”, Kim told story after story about how healthcare organizations would bring her in to help solve difficult healthcare problems. What Kim realized through that work was how badly health data is stored, protected and used.

In project after project, her team was tasked with bringing order to data chaos. One of the biggest challenges they encountered over and over again was bringing together massive amounts of data that was stored in different formats and used different terminologies.

Kim’s presentation was an effective counterbalance to the presenters just before her who had spoken excitedly about the future of Artificial Intelligence (AI). She cautioned the #TopOfMind2018 audience not to get too distracted by the shiny new AI object.

So much work needs to be done on the basics first before we can effectively apply AI. We need to get back to basics: data integrity and data cleansing. It’s not sexy, but if we don’t fix that then the more advanced technologies that layer on top will simply not work.

The session presented by Erin Moore, patient advocate and healthcare innovation consultant, made the biggest impact on the audience. For 45 minutes, she shared her deeply personal healthcare story, which started when her son Drew was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis seven years ago. Moore took the audience on an emotional roller coaster ride that mirrored her own family’s journey – from small wins (finding a doctor who would listen) to draining setbacks (medications changed without explanation) and from serendipitous windfalls (a researcher sent her an app that encouraged Drew to take his medication) to scratch-your-head moments (having to manually build Drew’s medical record by going to each provider and filling out forms in order for the information to be released).

There were two memorable takeaways from Moore’s presentation. First, was her story of how eye-opening it was for Susanna Fox, then Chief Technology Officer of the US Department of Health and Human Services, to spend the day shadowing Drew (virtually). Whenever Drew had to take his medication, Fox would pop a Tic-Tac. 500 Tic-Tacs and multiple hours waiting for appointments later, Fox had a new appreciation for how all-consuming it was to be the caregiver to someone who has cystic fibrosis. You can read more about Fox’s experience in her revealing blog post.

Second, was Moore’s double challenge to the audience:

  • To truly walk a mile in your end-users world when creating/designing the next generation products.
  • To make products truly interoperable.

The best unscripted moment of #TopOfMind2018 came from Amy Edgar, a #pinksocks #hcldr #TheWalkingGallery member. In one of the early Q&A sessions, she asked the speaker “How do we prevent digital health from becoming the next snake oil”. For a moment there was stunned silence as the room absorbed the full weight of Edgar’s comment.

For the rest of the day #TopOfMind2018 master of ceremonies Rasu Shrestha and other presenters made reference to snake oil. Edgar’s comment was even the inspiration for a recent HCLDR tweetchat that followed on the heels of the conference.

Overall #TopOfMind2018 was one of my most memorable conference experiences of 2018. The presentations were interesting. The venue was fantastic. Everything ran smoothly. Above all the people at the event were amazing.

Special Note: Thank you to Larry Gioia for organizing an amazing meetup during #TopOfMind2018 that was inclusive of #HITsm #HITMC #HCLDR #pinksocks and #TheWalkingGallery

ePrescribing and Combating the Opioid Crisis

Posted on December 15, 2017 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 Scene recently sat down with Paul Uhrig, Chief Administrative, Legal and Privacy Officer for Surescripts, to talk about the Opioid Crisis and how technology like ePrescribing including electronically prescribing controlled substances (EPCS) can help deal with the opioid crisis.

We cover a lot of ground with Paul in this interview including some of the core problems with the opioid crisi. Plus, we talk about the evolution of ePrescribing including adoption rates across regular ePrescribing and EPCS (ePrescribing of Controlled Substances) and what’s holding adoption back. We dive into how technology and ePrescribing can help with the opioid abuse problem. I also ask Paul about what lessons we’ve learned from states like New York and Vermont that have already passed legislation that required ePrescribing of controlled substances. Finally, I couldn’t help but also ask Paul about Surescripts work to help during the recent natural disasters.

Check out the full interview with Paul Uhrig from Surescripts embedded below or on YouTube.

If you like this content, be sure to subscribe to Healthcare Scene on YouTube and browse through our other Healthcare IT interviews.

An HIM Twitter Roundup – HIM Scene

Posted on December 13, 2017 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.

For those that aren’t participating on Twitter, you’re missing out. The amount of knowledge and information that’s shared on Twitter is astounding. The problem is that many people think that Twitter is where you go to talk about yourself. Certainly, that’s an option if you want to do that, but I find that consuming information that people share on Twitter is extremely valuable.

If you’ve never done Twitter before, sign up (it’s free) and then you need to go in and follow about 50 HIM professionals and other healthcare influencers. You can start by following @healthcarescene. HIM professionals are easy to find. Just search for the term AHIMA or ICD-10 and you’ll find a lot of them to follow.

Ok, enough of the Twitter lesson. Just to show you some of the value of Twitter, here’s a quick roundup of HIM related tweets. Plus, I’ll add a little commentary of my own after each tweet.


This is becoming such an important role for HIM professionals in a healthcare organization. HIM staff can do an amazing work ensuring that the data that’s stored in an EHR or other clinical system is accurate. If the data’s wrong, then all these new data based decisions are going to be wrong.


I think upcoding stories are like an accident on the freeway. When you see one you just have to look.


I’m still chewing on this one. Looks like a lot of deep thoughts at the AHIMA Data Summit in Orlando.


The opioid epidemic is such an issue. We need everyone involved to solve it. So, it’s great to see HIM can help with the problem as well. I agree that proper documentation and EHR interoperability is a major problem that could help the opioid epidemic. It won’t solve everything, but proper EHR documentation is one important part.


This is an illustration of where healthcare is heading. So far we’ve mostly focused on data collection. Time to turn the corner and start using that data in decision making.

Healthcare Always Has a Why Not – Essential to Focus on the Why To

Posted on December 11, 2017 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 hosted two roundtables at the Digital Healthcare Transformation conference around the topics of IoT (Internet of Things) and Wearables. The discussion at these roundtables was fascinating and full of promise. Although, it was also clear that all of these healthcare organizations were trying to figure out what was the right strategy when it came to IoT and wearables in their hospitals and health systems. In fact, one of the big takeaways from the roundtables was that the best strategy right now was to have a strategy of experimentation and learning.

While good advice, I was also struck by a simple concept that I’ve seen over and over in healthcare:

If you want a reason not to do something in healthcare, you’ll find one.

It’s a sad, but true principle. Healthcare is so complex that if you want to make an excuse find a reason not to do something, then you can easily find it. In fact, you can usually find multiple reasons.

The most egregious example of this is HIPAA. HIPAA has been an excuse not to do more things in healthcare than any other excuse in the book. When someone says that “HIPAA won’t allow us to do this” then we should just start translating that to mean “I don’t want to do this and so I’m pulling my HIPAA card.” HIPAA certainly requires certain actions, but I know of almost anything that can’t be done in healthcare that could still satisfy HIPAA requirements. At a minimum, you can always ask the patient to consent to essentially wave HIPAA and if the patient consents then you’re not in violation of HIPAA. However, in most cases you can meet HIPAA security and compliance requirements without having to go that far. However, if you’re looking for a reason not to do something, just say HIPAA.

Another one I’ve seen used and is much harder is when someone says, “I think this risks the quality of care we provide.” Notice the emphasis on the word THINK. Healthcare providers don’t have to have any evidence that a new technology, workflow, process, etc actually risks the quality of care. They just have to think that it could reduce the quality of care and it will slow everything down and often hijack the entire project. Forget any sort of formal studies or proof that the changes are better. If the providers’ gut tells them that it could risk the quality of care, it takes a real leader to push beyond that complaint and to force the provider to spend the time necessary to translate why their gut tells them it will be worse.

If we focus on the Why Not in healthcare, we’ll always find it. That’s why healthcare must focus on the Why to!

Use the examples of IoT or wearables and think about all the reasons healthcare should use these new technologies. It’s amazing how this new frame of reference changes your perspective. Wearables can help you understand the patient beyond the short time they spend in the hospital or doctor’s office. Wearables can help you better diagnose a patient. Wearables can help you better understand a chronic patient’s habits. etc etc etc. You obviously have to go much deeper into specific benefits, but you get the idea.

What I’ve found is that once you figure out the “Why to” make a change or implement a new technology, then it’s much easier to work through all of the “Why nots.” In fact, it turns the Why Nots into problems that need to be solved rather than excuses to not even consider a change. You can solve problems. Excuses are often impossible to overcome.

I’d love to hear your experience with this idea. Have you seen Why Nots hijack your projects? What are some of the other Why Not reasons you’ve seen? Has the move to asking “Why to” helped you in your projects?

Health Systems, Hospitals Getting Serious About Telemedicine

Posted on December 8, 2017 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

In the spring of last year, I wrote up a story about hospitals and health systems and their growing interest in telemedicine. The story included data from a survey on hospitals and telemedicine, which found that health systems averaged 5.51 telemedicine service lines at the time, up almost 20% from 2015.

Given these stats, I was not surprised to see a new press release from Teladoc reporting that the company now supports more than 200 hospitals, a number which represents a 100% growth in such relationships during this year.

If you’re wondering why this has happened, you’ll get more or less the same answer from last year’s study and Teladoc’s news release. In short, it’s all about the outcomes, baby.

When I wrote the story last year, one of the things that stood out for me was that 96% of respondents had said they were planning to roll up telemedicine services because they felt it would improve patient outcomes. While that made sense to me at the time, it seemed more like an aspiration rather than a practical plan.

What made the survey data even more provocative is that “improving financial returns” turned out to be a very low priority for hospitals working on telemedicine programs. At the time, this focus on outcomes rather than direct financial returns surprised me.

Now, about 18 months later, I’m doing the facepalm thing and saying “of course, hospitals want affordable, flexible care delivery options — they’re a great tool for managing population health!” It’s a no-brainer, actually, but I guess my brain wasn’t working at the time.

Now, as far as I know, the assumption that telemedicine can help with PHM and value-based delivery generally has not been rigorously tested. Also, even if the assumption is correct, hospitals are likely to struggle with deploying telemedicine for a while until they develop the most efficient workflows for using it.

Also, while it’s all well and good to say that focusing on outcomes will create ROI as a secondary effect, for some hospitals it will be pretty rough to carry telemedicine infrastructure and staffing costs upfront for a while. After all, if they want to make an impact with telemedicine, they have to make a serious commitment; I’m guessing that most of us would agree that a scattershot approach would get most hospitals nowhere.

Ultimately, though, I think hospitals have it right. Telemedicine is likely to offer health systems and hospitals some amazing options for extending service lines, managing populations more effectively, and yes, improving outcomes.

Hospital Takes Step Forward Using Patient-Reported Outcome Data

Posted on December 6, 2017 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

I don’t usually summarize stories from other publications — I don’t want to bore you! — and I like to offer you a surprise or two. This time, though, I thought you might want to hear about an interesting piece appearing in Modern Healthcare. This item offers some insight into how understanding patient-generated determinants of health could improve outcomes.

The story tells the tale of the Hospital for Special Surgery, an orthopedics provider in New York City which provides elective procedures to treat joint pain and discomfort. According to the MH editor, HSS has begun collecting data on patient-reported outcomes after procedures to see not only how much pain may remain, but also how their quality of life is post-procedure.

This project began by doing a check in with the patient before the procedure, during which nurses went over important information and answered any questions the patient might have. (As readers may know, this is a fairly standard approach to pre-surgical patient communication, so this was something of a warm-up.)

However, things got more interesting a few months later. For its next step, the hospital also began surveying the patients on their state of mind and health prior to the procedure, asking 10 questions drawn from the Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System, or Promis.

The questions captured not only direct medical concerns such as pain intensity and sleep patterns, but also looked at the patient’s social support system, information few hospitals capture in a formal way at present.

All of the information gathered is being collected and entered into the patient’s electronic health record. After the procedure, the hospital has worked to see that the patients fill out the Promis survey, which it makes available using Epic’s MyChart portal.

Getting to this point wasn’t easy, as IT leaders struggled to integrate the results of the Promis survey into patient EHRs. However, once the work was done, the care team was able to view information across patients, which certainly has the potential to help them improve processes and outcomes over time.

Now, the biggest challenge for HSS is collecting data after the patients leave the hospital. Since kicking off the project in April, HSS has collected 24,000 patient responses to nursing questions, but only 15% of the responses came from patients who submitted them after their procedure. The hospital has seen some success in capturing post-surgical results when doctors push patients to fill out the survey after their care, but overall, the post-surgical response rate has remained low to date.

Regardless, once the hospital improves its methods for collecting post-surgical patient responses, it seems likely that the data will prove useful and important. I hope to see other hospitals take this approach.