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UPMC Plans $2B Investment To Build “Digitally-Based” Specialty Hospitals

Posted on November 20, 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.

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center has announced plans to spend $2 billion to build three new specialty hospitals with a digital focus. Its plans include building the UPMC Heart and Transplant Hospital, UPMC Hillman Cancer Hospital and UPMC Vision and Rehabilitation Hospital. UPMC already runs the existing specialty hospitals, Magee-Womens Hospital, Western in Psychiatric Institute and Clinic and Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.

UPMC is already one of the largest integrated health delivery networks in the United States. It’s $13 billion system includes more than 25 hospitals, a 3-million-member health plan and 3,600 physicians. If its new specialty centers actually represent a new breed of digital-first hospital, and help it further dominate its region, this could only add to its already-outsized clout.

So what is a “digitally-based” hospital, and what makes it different than, say, other hospitals well along the EMR adoption curve? After all, virtually every hospital today relies on a backbone of health IT applications, manages patient clinical data in an EMR and stores and stores and shares imagines in digital form.   Some are still struggling to integrate or replace legacy technologies, while others are adopting cutting-edge platforms, but going digital is mission-critical for everyone these days.

What’s interesting about UPMC’s plans, however, is that the new hospitals will be designed as digitally-based facilities from day one. UPMC is working with Microsoft to design these “digital hospitals of the future,” building on the two entities’ existing research collaboration with Microsoft and its Azure cloud platform.

The Azure relationship dates back to February of this year, when UPMC struck a deal with Microsoft to do some joint technology research. The agreement builds on both UPMC’s fairly impressive record of tech innovation and Microsoft’s healthcare AI capabilities, genomics and machine learning capabilities. For example, in working with Microsoft, UPMC gets access to Microsoft’s health chat bot technology, which is being deployed elsewhere to help patient self-triage before they interact with the doctor for a video visit.

I’d love to offer you specific information on how these new digitally-oriented will be designed, and more importantly how the functioning will differ from otherwise-wired hospitals that didn’t start out that way, but I don’t think the two partners are ready to spill the beans. Clearly, they’re going to tell you all of this is the new hotness, but nobody’s provided me with any examples of how this will truly improve on existing models of digital hospital technology. I just don’t think they’re that far along with the project yet.

Obviously, UPMC isn’t spending $2 billion lightly, so its leadership must believe the new digital model will offer a big payoff. I hope they know something we don’t about the ROI potential for this effort. It seems likely that if nothing else, that technology investment alone won’t drive that big a rate of return. Clearly, other major factors are in play here.

AMIA17 – There’s Gold in Them EHRs!

Posted on November 13, 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.

If even 10% of the research presented at the 2017 American Medical Informatics Association conference (AMIA17) is adopted by mainstream healthcare, the impact on costs, quality and patient outcomes will be astounding. Real-time analysis of EHR data to determine the unique risk profile of each patient, customized remote monitoring based on patient + disease profiles, electronic progress notes using voice recognition and secondary uses of patient electronic records were all discussed at AMIA17.

Attending AMIA17 was an experience like no other. I understood less than half of the information being presented and I loved it. It felt like I was back in university – which is the only other time I have been around so many people with advanced degrees. By the time I left AMIA17, I found myself wishing I had paid more attention during my STATS302 classes.

It was especially interesting to be at AMIA17 right after attending the 3-day CHIME17 event for Hospital CIOs. CHIME17 was all about optimizing investments made in HealthIT over the past several years, especially EHRs (see this post for more details). AMIA17 was very much an expansion on the CHIME17 theme. AMIA17 was all about leveraging and getting value from the data collected by HealthIT systems over the past several years.

A prime example of this was the work presented by Michael Rothman, Ph.D of Pera Health. Rothman created a way to analyze key vital signs RELATIVE to a patient’s unique starting condition to determine whether they are in danger. Dubbed the Rothman Index, this algorithm presents clinicians and caregivers with more accurate alarms and notifications. With all the devices and systems in hospitals today, alarm fatigue is a very real and potentially deadly situation.

Missed ventilator alarms was #3 on ECRI Institute’s 2017 Top 10 Health Technology Hazards. It was #2 on the 2016 Top 10 list. According to ECRI: “Failure to recognize and respond to an actionable clinical alarm condition in a timely manner can result in serious patient injury or death”. The challenge is not the response but rather how to determine which alarms are informational and which are truly an indicator of a clinical condition that needs attention.

Comments from RNs in adverse-event reports shared in a 2016 presentation to the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI) sums up this challenge nicely:

“Alarm fatigue is leading to significant incidents because there are so many nuisance alarms and no one even looks up when a high-priority alarm sounds. Failure to rescue should be a never event but it isn’t.”

“Too many nuisance alarms, too many patients inappropriately monitored. Continuous pulse oximetry is way overused and accounts for most of the alarms. Having everyone’s phone ring to one patient’s alarm makes you not respond to them most of the time.”

This is exactly what Rothman is trying to address with his work. Instead of using a traditional absolute-value approach to setting alarms – which are based on the mythical “average patient” – Rothman’s method uses the patient’s actual data to determine their unique baseline and sets alarms relative to that. According to Rothman, this could eliminate as much as 80% of the unnecessary alarms in hospitals.

Other notable presentations at AMIA17 included:

  • MedStartr Pitch IT winner, FHIR HIEDrant, on how to mine and aggregate clinically relevant data from HIEs and present it to clinicians within their EHRs
  • FHIR guru Joshua C Mandel’s presentation on the latest news regarding CDS Hooks and the amazing Sync-for-Science EHR data sharing for research initiative
  • Tianxi Cai of Harvard School of Public Health sharing her research on how EHR data can be used to determine the efficacy of treatments on an individual patient
  • Eric Dishman’s keynote about the open and collaborative approach to research he is championing within the NIH
  • Carol Friedman’s pioneering work in Natural Language Processing (NLP). Not only did she overcome being a woman scientist but also applying NLP to healthcare something her contemporaries viewed as a complete waste of time

The most impressive thing about AMIA17? The number of students attending the event – from high schoolers to undergraduates to PhD candidates. There were hundreds of them at the event. It was very encouraging to see so many young bright minds using their big brains to improve healthcare.

I left AMIA17 excited about the future of HealthIT.

Five Key Takeaways from CHIME17

Posted on November 10, 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.

I recently had the chance to attend the 2017 CHIME Fall CIO Forum (CHIME17) for the first time. It was a fantastic experience.

What struck me most about the event was the close-knit feeling. In the hallways and in the sessions, it felt more like a class reunion than a healthcare IT conference. It was common to see groups of attendees engaged in deep conversations and there were frequent shouts of “hello” from across the hall. I can honestly say that I spoke with more CIOs at CHIME17 than the all the other 2017 conferences I have attended combined.

I learned at lot from my CIO conversations. Below are my top five takeaways:

Hospital CIOs are real people

At every other conference, you have to search pretty hard to find a hospital CIO. They tend to hide and run quickly from one pre-arranged meeting to another. They also do not spend a lot of time visiting the exhibit hall except with companies they are doing business with. At CHIME17 CIOs roamed the halls freely and were very approachable, especially at lunch. It was easy to strike up conversations at CHIME17 and it didn’t take long before funny stories of technology gone awry were being told. I came away from CHIME17 with a much stronger appreciation for CIOs – they are funny, caring people under a lot of pressure.

Optimization is the new black

Many of the conversations at CHIME17 were around the best ways to optimize existing IT systems – particularly EHRs. This optimization had two flavors. First, CIOs spoke about optimizing the user interfaces to reduce clinician frustration and to streamline workflows. This form of optimization was seen as a “quick win”. Second, CIOs spoke about optimizing/leveraging the data collected by their various systems. Many were investing in analytics tools and talent in order to unlock the value in the health data within their EHR, imaging and other applications. Optimization was the dominant topic at CHIME. For more details, check out my blog on this topic.

Attracting and retaining talent is a challenge

Another hot topic of discussion, or more accurately, a heated point of frustration at CHIME17 was the difficulty in attracting and retaining IT talent. CIOs at large urban hospital were frustrated at losing talented staff to HealthIT vendors and to “cooler” tech companies in their cities (like Google and Amazon). CIOs at smaller rural hospitals were frustrated at losing talented staff to their urban counterparts and to those same tech companies. With healthcare budgets frozen, CIOs were having to find more creative ways to attract and retain staff – like allowing work-from-home, hiring out-of-state resources and providing time for employees to pursue their own healthcare research projects. This war for HealthIT talent threatens to stymie healthcare innovation and is a challenge worth keeping an eye on.

The role of the Hospital CIO is evolving rapidly

Several sessions at CHIME17 were dedicated to the rapidly changing role of technology in healthcare organizations and to the role of the CIO itself. There was a lot of talk about the new emerging roles of:

  • CSO – Chief Security Officer
  • CMIO – Chief Medical Information Officer
  • CNIO – Chief Nursing Information Officer
  • CDO – Chief Data Officer
  • CHIO – Chief Health Information Officer

As information technology permeates everyday hospital operations, the CIO role will fracture into hybrid operational+technology roles like the ones listed above. There was heated debate as to whether all these roles should report into the CIO or whether they should be kept separate from. John Lynn wrote a great blog on this topic.

Size doesn’t matter

The challenges being discussed by the CIOs at CHIME were independent of the size of their organizations. Whether it was attracting talent, finding good vendor/partners or dealing with slashed budgets – CIOs from small rural hospitals to large urban systems, were struggling with the same challenges. On one hand it was comforting to know the problems were universal but on the other, it was worrying to see how pervasive these challenges were.

BONUS: Marketing tchotchkes are an invasive species

CHIME is one of the few healthcare conferences that does not have an exhibit hall. Despite this, there was still a lot of tchotchke available to attendees – proving that Marketing Tchotchke should really be labeled as an invasive species at healthcare conferences.

Shout-out to CHIME organizers for putting on such a fantastic event.

Epic Mounts Clumsy Public Defense On False Claims Lawsuit

Posted on November 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.

A former employee of a health system using Epic filed a False Claims Act whistleblower suit claiming that the vendor’s platform overbills for anesthesia services by default. The suit claims that Epic’s billing software double-bills both Medicare and Medicaid for anesthesia, as well as commercial payers.

At this point, let me be clear that I’m not accusing anyone of anything, but in theory, this could be a very big deal. One could certainly imagine a scenario in which multiple Epic customers colluded to permit this level of overbilling, which could generate staggering levels of overpayment. If so, one could imagine hospitals and health systems paying out judgments that add up to billions of dollars. To date, though, nobody’s made such a suggestion. In fact, Epic has said essentially the opposite and pointed to the need to understand how medical billing works, but we’ll get to that.

In the suit, which was filed in 2015 but unsealed this month, Geraldine Petrowski contended that Epic’s software was billing for both the base units of anesthesia for procedures and the time the procedure took.

Petrowski, a former employee with the compliance team at Raleigh, N.C.-based WakeMed Health & Hospitals, alleges that setting the billing to these defaults has resulted in “hundreds of millions of dollars in fraudulent bills” submitted to Medicare, Medicaid and other payers. (WakeMed is an Epic customer.)

According to an article appearing in Modern Healthcare, Petrowski developed these concerns when she worked with Epic as the provider’s liaison for its software implementation between 2012 and 2014. In the complaint, she says that she raised these concerns with Epic, but got a dismissive response. Eventually, after Petrowski kept up the pressure for a while, Epic fixed the billing issue — but only for WakeMed.

Apparently, the U.S. Department of Justice reviewed Petrowski’s case and decided not to intervene, a fact which Epic has not-surprisingly mentioned every chance it gets. Perhaps more tellingly, the vendor has suggested that Petrowski filed the suit largely because she’s clueless. “The plaintiff’s assertions represent a fundamental misunderstanding of how claims software works,” Epic spokesperson Meghan Roh told the magazine.

Now, I don’t want to go off on a rant here, but if the best public defense Epic can mount in this case is to offer some mixture of “everybody’s doing it” and “you’re a big dummy,” you’ve got to wonder what it’s got to hide.

Not only that, trying to brush off the suit as the product of ignorance or inexperience makes no sense given what’s involved. While False Claims whistleblowers can collect a very large payoff, getting there can take many years of grueling work, and their odds of prevailing aren’t great even if they make it through the torturous litigation process.

No, I’m more inclined to think that Epic has tipped its hand already. I’d argue that fixing only the WakeMed billing system shows what the legal folks call mens rea – a guilty mind — or at least a willingness to ignore potential wrongdoing. Not only that, if the system was operating as expected, why would Epic have gotten involved in the first place? Its consulting services don’t come cheap, and I’m guessing that Petrowski didn’t have the authority to pay for them.

It doesn’t look good, people…it just doesn’t look good.

Sure, the hospitals and health systems using Epic’s billing solution are ultimately responsible for the results. Maybe Epic is completely blameless in the matter this case. Regardless, if Epic’s hands are clean, it could do a better job of acting like it.

New York Presbyterian brings ER to patients via Mobile Stroke Treatment Unit

Posted on November 3, 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.

After a year in operation, New York Presbyterian’s (NYP) Mobile Stroke Treatment Unit (MSTU) continues to be a shining example of how healthcare technology can be used to facilitate true patient-centered care.

“The MSTU program was started with the singular goal of reducing the disability resulting from stroke,” explains Dr Michael Lerario, Medical Director of NYP’s MSTU Program and Assistant Professor of Clinical Neurology at Weill Cornell Medicine. “There is a term we use when we talk about stroke: Time is Brain. Every minute that passes after blood flow is even partially cut off from the brain, 1.9 million brain cells die from the lack of oxygen. This loss can lead to severe cognitive and physical disability for patients.”

Two feet longer than a regular New York City ambulance, the MSTU houses a Samsung portable computer tomography (CT) scanner, a point-of-care laboratory, a complete mobile EHR station (with super-fast WiFi) and a Cisco tele-presence system. The MSTU is staffed by four team members who are specially trained:

  • 1 CT Technician
  • 1 Registered Nurse (RN)
  • 2 Paramedics

With this sophisticated equipment, the MSTU team is able to bring stroke treatment directly to patients where they are instead of waiting for the patient to be transported to the hospital’s ER. Those precious minutes can be the difference between a full recovery and months of rehabilitation (or permanent disability).

When a 911 call comes in, the operator quickly determines if it is a potential stoke situation using a predetermined set of criteria (Plerior referrs to them as “triggers”). This specific protocol was jointly developed by NYP and the New York Fire Department which handles all 911 calls. If the criteria are met, the MSTU is dispatched to the patient’s location.

Upon arrival, the MSTU team stabilizes the patient and quickly conducts a number of diagnostic tests using the equipment onboard: PT/INR test, hemoglobin test and a CT scan. The CT images are sent wirelessly in real-time to NYP’s PACS system where the on-call neurologist reviews the results with the MSTU’s RN via a tele-conference. Based on the scans and the onsite lab work, the neurologist and the onsite team can decide the best course of treatment.

If the scans show that the patient is suffering an ischemic stroke (an obstruction within a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain) and is not already taking anticoagulant medication, then tPA (tissue plasminogen activator – a clot dissolving medication) can immediately be administered. Often referred to as the “gold standard” of Ischemic Stroke Treatment, if tPA is administered quickly it significantly improves the chances for a full recovery.

“Right from the beginning we had complete buy-in and support from within our organization,” says Lerario. “The Neurology and Emergency Medical Services departments in particular were very excited about the MSTU program. They had seen the positive impact MSTU’s were having in Europe and the team wanted to bring that treatment to the people of New York City.”

In just one year of operation, the MSTU has been dispatched on 400+ calls and the response from patients has been universally positive. In fact, a number of cases have been highlighted as good news stories in the press including one about a famous Brazilian singer.

“It won’t be long before mobile stroke treatment will become the standard of care,” Lerario continues. “The benefits are now well documented and more and more people are becoming aware of the impact an MSTU can have on your quality of life following a stroke. People are starting to demand this type of care from their care providers.”

MSTUs are also fantastic for healthcare as a whole. It costs far less to operate an MSTU than it does to treat and rehabilitate patients who suffer disabilities because tPA was not administered quickly enough.

From a patient, provider and public perspective, New York Presbyterian’s MSTU is a winning combination of healthcare technology and patient-centered thinking.

RCM Tips And Tricks: To Collect More From Patients, Educate And Engage Them

Posted on November 1, 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.

Hospitals face particularly difficult challenges when trying to collect on patient bills. When you mix complex pricing structures, varied contracts with health insurers and dizzying administrative issues, it’s hard to let patients know what they’re going to owe, much less collect it.

Luckily, RCM leaders can make major progress with patient collections if they adopt some established (but often neglected) strategies. In short, to collect more from patients you need to educate them about healthcare financial issues, develop a trusted relationship with them and make it easy for them to pay that bill.

As a thought exercise, let’s assume that most patients want to pay their bills, but may need encouragement. While nobody can collect money from consumers that refuse to pay, you can help the willing ones prepare for the bills they’ll get. You can teach them to understand their coverage. In some cases, you can collect balances ahead of time. Toss in some smart patient engagement strategies and you could be golden.

What will that look like in practice? Check out this list of steps hospitals can take to improve RCM results directly, courtesy of a survey of hospital execs by Becker’s Hospital Review:

  • Sixty-five percent suggested that telling patients the amount due before they come to an appointment would be helpful.
  • Fifty-two percent believe that having more data on patients’ likelihood to pay could improve patient collections results
  • Forty-seven percent said that speaking to clients in different ways depending on the state of the finances would help improve patient collections.
  • Forty-two percent said that offering customers payment plans would be valuable.

Of course, you won’t be doing this in a vacuum, and some of the trends affecting patient financial responsibility are beyond your control. For example, unless something changes dramatically, many patients will continue to struggle with high-deductible health coverage. Nobody – except the health insurers – likes this state of affairs, but it’s a fact of life.

Also, it’s worth noting that boosting patient engagement can be complicated and labor-intensive. To connect with patients effectively, hospitals will need to fight a war on many fronts. That means not only speaking to patients in ways they understand, but also offering well-thought-out hospital-branded mobile apps, an effective online presence and more. You’ll want to do whatever it takes to foster patient loyalty and trust. Though this may sound intimidating, you’ll like the results you get.

However, there are a few strategies that hospitals can implement relatively quickly. In fact, the Becker’s survey results suggest that hospitals already know what they need to do — but haven’t gotten around to it.

For example, 87% of hospital respondents said they had a problem with collecting co-pays before appointments, 85% said knowing how much patients can pay was important, and 76% of respondents said that simplifying bills was a problem for them. While it may be harder than it looks to execute on these strategies, it certainly isn’t impossible.

Healthcare Execs See New Digital Health Technologies As Critical To Success

Posted on October 30, 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.

Healthcare organizations have spent massively on HIT in recent years, in hopes of preparing for success by building next-generation tech infrastructure.  If a new survey is any indication, while the current set of efforts haven’t born as much fruit as their leaders like, they remain hopeful that the next wave will better support their goals.

The SAP Digital Transformation Executive Study, which surveyed about 400 healthcare executives, looked at whether the healthcare industry was prepared for the digital economy.

Respondents told SAP (and survey partner Oxford Economics) that the existing technology investments weren’t delivering the value they wanted, with only 22% saying they supported customer satisfaction efforts and 23% saying that they helped foster innovation.

Fortunately for health IT vendors, however, that wasn’t the whole story. Perhaps because hope springs eternal, healthcare leaders predicted that in two years thing should look different.

In fact, 70% said that the latest technologies were essential to growth, competitive advantage and customer experience. In two years, 61% expect technology investments to boost customer satisfaction, and 59% believe the technologies will help support innovation.

This may be, at least in part, because many healthcare organizations are in the process of kicking off digital transformation efforts and are relying on new technologies to achieve their goals. Though the process hasn’t advanced too far in many organizations, respondents all seem to be making some progress.

According to the survey, healthcare execs expect the importance of digital transformation to climb over the next several years. While 61% said it’s important today, 79% expect it to be important in two years and 86% believe that it will be important in five years.

To prepare for these eventualities, 23% of respondents said are planning digital transformation initiatives and 54% are piloting these approaches. In addition, 32% reported that their efforts were complete in some areas and 2% said their process was complete in all areas. Almost half (48%) said a lack of mature technology was holding back their efforts.

When asked to name the technologies they expected to use, 76% of healthcare leaders predicted that big data and analytics will help them transform their business. They also named cloud computing (65%), IoT technologies (46%) and AI (28%) as tools likely to foster digital transformation process.

I don’t know about you, but personally, I’d be pretty upset if I’d spent tens or hundreds of millions of dollars on this wave of health IT and felt that I’d gotten little value out of it. And given that history, I’d be reluctant to make any new investments until I was confident things play out differently this time.

Under these circumstances, it’s not surprising that healthcare execs are taking their time with implementing digital transformation, as important as this process may be. With any luck, the next wave of digital technology will be more flexible and offer greater ROI than the previous generation.

Predictive Analytics Will Save Hospitals, Not IT Investment

Posted on October 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.

Most hospitals run on very slim operating margins. In fact, not-for-profit hospitals’ mean operating margins fell from 3.4% in fiscal year 2015 to 2.7% in fiscal year 2016, according to Moody’s Investors Service.

To turn this around, many seem to be pinning their hopes on better technology, spending between 25% and 35% of their capital budget on IT infrastructure investment. But that strategy might backfire, suggests an article appearing in the Harvard Business Review.

Author Sanjeev Agrawal, who serves as president of healthcare and chief marketing officer at healthcare predictive analytics company LeanTaaS, argues that throwing more money at IT won’t help hospitals become more profitable. “Healthcare providers can’t keep spending their way out of trouble by investing in more and more infrastructure,” he writes. “Instead, they must optimize the use of the assets currently in place.”

Instead, he suggests, hospitals need to go the way of retail, transportation and airlines, industries which also manage complex operations and work on narrow margins. Those industries have improved their performance by improving their data science capabilities.

“[Hospitals] need to create an operational ‘air traffic control’ for their hospitals — a centralized command-and-control capability that is predictive, learns continually, and uses optimization algorithms and artificial intelligence to deliver prescriptive recommendations throughout the system,” Agrawal says.

Agrawal predicts that hospitals will use predictive analytics to refine their key care-delivery processes, including resource utilization, staff schedules, and patient admits and discharges. If they get it right, they’ll meet many of their goals, including better patient throughput, lower costs and more efficient asset utilization.

For example, he notes, hospitals can optimize OR utilization, which brings in 65% of revenue at most hospitals. Rather than relying on current block-scheduling techniques, which have been proven to be inefficient, hospitals can use predictive analytics and mobile apps to give surgeons more control of OR scheduling.

Another area ripe for process improvements is the emergency department. As Agrawal notes, hospitals can avoid bottlenecks by using analytics to define the most efficient order for ED activities. Not only can this improve hospital finances, it can improve patient satisfaction, he says.

Of course, Agrawal works for a predictive analytics vendor, which makes him more than a little bit biased. But on the other hand, I doubt any of us would disagree that adopting predictive analytics strategies is the next frontier for hospitals.

After all, having spent many billions collectively to implement EMRs, hospitals have created enormous data stores, and few would argue that it’s high time to leverage them. For example, if they want to adopt population health management – and it’s a question of when, not if — they’ve got to use these tools to reduce outcome variations and improve quality of cost across populations. Also, while the deep-pocketed hospitals are doing it first, it seems likely that over time, virtually every hospital will use EMR data to streamline operations as well.

The question is, will vendors like LeanTaaS take a leading role in this transition, or will hospital IT leaders know what they want to do?  At this stage, it’s anyone’s guess.

Avoiding EMR-Related Lawsuits In The ED

Posted on October 25, 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.

It’s hardly a secret that while EMRs may offer clinical benefits, they aren’t quite the patient safety or risk management tool one might hope they would be. Hospitals have much greater luck mining EMRs for clinical intelligence retroactively than they have using them to avoiding liability, in part because many aren’t designed to offer such protection.

But according to medical malpractice insurer CNA, there are steps hospitals can take to avoid EMR-related liability in the emergency department, in many cases if they simply avoid some key pitfalls which have caused problems for facilities in the past.

Avoiding copy and paste problems

As we all know, copying and pasting repetitive parts of a patient record from one note to another — such as the patient’s history — can save physicians lot of time. And if that’s all that gets copied, it’s seldom an issue.

However, when physicians rely too heavily on copy and paste functions, it can have a negative effect on patient care, in part by disseminating error-laden or outdated information, CNA has found. Overuse of copy-and-paste functions can also flood records with excess information and make it hard for subsequent providers to find what they need.

To avoid patient care errors associated with the use of copy and paste functions, CNA’s recommendations include the following:

  • Establish policies laying out how copy and paste functions should be used
  • Require clinicians to get ongoing education on proper use of these functions and patient safety risks associated with copy and paste misuse
  • Use a voice-activated dictation system for EMR data entry
  • Have the EMR highlight all copied information and/or prevent copying of high-sensitivity information such as the history of present illness
  • Audit EMRs to understand how providers use copy and paste, and responding when they seem to be abusing this function

Managing requests for EHR-based information

If your ED is facing a professional liability claim, you are likely to face requests for paper production of EMR archives. Part of your goal will be to limit how much EHR-based information is legally discoverable.

An important step in doing so is defining the legal medical record (LMR), which includes information on the provision of clinical care which would reasonably be expected upon request during discovery.

However, producing paper copies of EMR-based information differs from producing records originally created on paper, and hospital emergency departments might face additional liability issues if they haven’t prepared for this adequately. To do so, steps they can take include:

  • Developing policies and procedures for responding to requests for copies of the EMR and audit trails
  • Offering ongoing education for medical staff and employees on best practices for EMR documentation
  • Disclosing the EMR electronically in read-only mode rather than as a paper document

Eventually, of course, hospitals will want to do more than patch together defenses against problems that can occur when using a typical EMR design. Ultimately hospitals will want to make EMRs easy to use and supportive of clinical goals without being too intrusive. I know, most of us feel like we’ll grow old and gray waiting for this to happen, but we mustn’t let it fall off the radar.

In the meantime, the strategies CNA outlines could help your ED avoid medical malpractice litigation and protect patients from needless harm. It may be a transitional strategy but it’s better than nothing.

Apple Considers Healthcare Services Crossover

Posted on October 23, 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.

Typically, we cover stories describing how technology companies are pitching their products to providers. This time, in a move I predict we’ll see more often in the future, it looks like Apple has been pondering how it can enter the brick-and-mortar primary care business. This should concern both hospitals and primary care organizations, particularly hospitals that own physician clinics.

Apparently, Apple has been thinking about expanding into the clinic business for at least a year, according to an article from CNBC. Sources told CNBC that the tech giant was in talks to buy a startup known as Crossover Health, which helps big employers create and operate on-site medical clinics. The article reports that while Apple and Crossover talked for months, the two didn’t strike an acquisition agreement.

That doesn’t mean that Apple is backing away from buying a provider organization. The story also notes that Apple has reportedly approached national primary care group One Medical, which charges patients an annual fee for concierge-style care. It’s clearly no coincidence that One Medical also pitches its program to employers.

There’s an argument to be made that Apple can pull this kind of deal off. If nothing else, Apple has been very successful with its chain of brick-and-mortar retail centers, which have been a major sales channel for the company. Between Apple’s magic-touch history with the stores, and large medical groups developing increasingly strong retail chops, there’s a lot of potential there. It’s possible that if Apple acquires or partners with the right clinics, it could be the first major tech company to be a roaring success in the sector.

It’s also worth noting that Apple customers are some of the most fanatically loyal buyers in the world, with many having stayed with the company during all of it ups and downs. If it can mobilize these fans, some of whom are also invested in Apple smartwatches and phones, it could invent new ways to enhance their care experiences. And that could set its clinics apart.

That being said, healthcare is far from perfecting the retail experience for its customers, though there are standouts like One Medical on the map. (Full disclosure: I was briefly a patient in its Washington DC office and came away impressed with the way the care was delivered and packaged.) Few hospitals or clinics are getting it right just yet.

Perhaps more importantly, while Apple has been at the margins of the healthcare business, I doubt it has a deep institutional understanding of healthcare mechanics. This might not be a big deal initially, but as the dust settles on an acquisition it could be a culture clash. After all, healthcare delivery is different from retail operations in some very important ways, including but not limited the herky-jerky way providers are forced to collect on their bills.

My feeling is that even if Apple pours endless capital into such a venture, what will matter more is how well it comes to understand healthcare operations. I believe that it might do better if it partners with a health system with plans to expand its clinic presence. After all, working with the health system would provide Apple with much deeper resources, a deep bench of executive talent and the ability to partner directly on rolling out medical groups. Let’s see if things head that way.