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Near-Fatal Med Incident Leads Hospital To Redesign Alerts

Posted on June 13, 2018 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 only took a couple of mistakes – but they nearly led to tragedy.

Not long ago, a patient with a deadly allergy to a common pain reliever was admitted to Brockton, Mass.-based Good Samaritan Medical Center. The patient’s allergy was recorded in the EMR. But somehow, despite the warning generated by the system, a nurse practitioner ordered the medication and a pharmacist approved it. The patient recovered but was forced to spend time in the ICU, according to a story in the Boston Globe.

When state and federal regulators descended upon the hospital, its leaders said that they felt alert fatigue was a factor in the error. Of course, this forced the hospital to address some complex issues and the path wasn’t simple. CMS almost booted Good Samaritan from the Medicare program over the issue, in part because it didn’t address the problem quickly enough.

Since then, parent company Steward Health Care has made changes to the EMRs at all of the facilities to cut the chances of patients being harmed by alert fatigue.

Today, if a new patient at any of the Steward hospitals has a serious drug to allergy, they must follow a new procedure. Under new rules, a pharmacist cannot place an order for any of the potentially harmful drugs until they speak with the doctor or nurse to discuss alternative treatments.

Dr. Joseph Weinstein, chief medical officer at the health system, told the newspaper that the new procedure forces staff who are “moving through screens at a rapid pace” to stop. “The two people have to sign off on [the prescription] together,” he said. “This is one of the safest ways to reduce alert fatigue.”

Steward also cut back the list of reasons providers can override analogy alert from 14 to 7 of the most important, giving them a shorter list of items to read through and check off as part of the process.

It’s good to see that Steward was able to learn from the medication error and improve the alarm systems across its entire hospital network. These changes are likely to make a difference in day-to-day patient care and reduce the odds of patient harm.

That being said, clinicians are still besieged by alerts generated for other reasons, and simplifying one process, however vital, can only shave off points of the larger problem.

It seems to me that vendors ought to be more involved in the process of refining alerts rather than making individual hospitals figure out how to do this. Sure, hospitals need to address their individual circumstances but vendors need to take more responsibility the problem. There’s no getting away from this issue.

“We’re Goin’ Live with Epic Now” – An EHR Go-live Parody Video

Posted on May 25, 2018 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.

Many of you may remember the Hamilton parody video that Mary Washington Healthcare did back when they selected Epic as their new EHR. Well, Mary Washington Healthcare’ CEO, Mike McDermott, and his Epic team are back again with another Hamilton parody video as they go live on Epic. Check out the video below:

I’m sure many people wonder why a healthcare leader would engage their employees in a video like this. Many underestimate the value of bringing a team together to create a project like this. It’s an extremely valuable team building experience. Plus, it’s nice to have a little fun together when dealing with something as grueling as an Epic EHR implementation.

Furthermore, one of the keys to effectively implementing an EHR is creating a deep relationship with your EHR vendor. There are always problems that come up where you need your EHR vendors support to solve the problems. What better way to get noticed and appreciated by your EHR vendor than to create a video like the one above?

Nice work to the team at Mary Washington Healthcare for creating such a great video. I especially like the drone shots and the shout out to the Epic employees not dressed in the period clothes like everyone else.

5 Ways Allscripts Will Help Fight Opioid Abuse In 2018

Posted on May 22, 2018 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Paul Black, CEO of Allscripts, a proud sponsor of Health IT Expo.

Prescription opioid misuse and overdoses are on the rise. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that more than 40 Americans die every day from prescription opioid overdose. It also estimates that the economic impact in the United States is $78.5 billion a year, including the costs of healthcare, lost productivity, addiction treatment and criminal justice involvement.

The opioid crisis has taken a devastating toll on our communities, families and loved ones. It is a complex problem that will require a lot of hard work from stakeholders across the healthcare continuum.

We all have a part to play. At Allscripts, we feel it is our responsibility to continuously improve our solutions to help providers address public health concerns. Our mission is to design technology that enables smarter care, delivered with greater precision, for better outcomes.

Here are five ways Allscripts plans to help clinicians combat the opioid crisis in 2018:

1) Establish a baseline. Does your patient population have a problem with opioids?

Before healthcare organizations can start addressing opioid abuse, they need to understand how the crisis is affecting their patient population. We are all familiar with the national statistics, but how does the crisis manifest in each community? What are the specific prescribing practices or overdose patterns that need the most attention?

Now that healthcare is on a fully digital platform, we can gain insights from the data. Organizations can more precisely manage the needs of each patient population. We are working with clients to uncover some of these patterns. For example, one client is using Sunrise™ Clinical Performance Manager (CPM) reports to more closely examine opioid prescribing patterns in emergency rooms.

2) Secure the prescribing process. Is your prescribing process safe and secure?

Electronic prescribing of controlled substances (EPCS) can help reduce fraud. Unfortunately, even though the technology is widely available, it is not widely adopted. Areas where clinicians regularly use EPCS have seen significantly less prescription fraud and abuse.

EPCS functionality is already in place across our EHRs. While more than 90% of all pharmacies are EPCS-enabled, only 14% of controlled substances are prescribed electronically. We’re making EPCS adoption one of our top priorities at Allscripts, and we continue to discuss the benefits with policymakers.

3) Provide clinical decision support. Are you current with evidence-based best practices?

We are actively pursuing partnerships with health plans, pharmaceutical companies and third-party content providers to collaborate on evidence-based prescribing guidelines. These guidelines may suggest quantity limits, recommendations for fast-acting versus extended-release medications, protocols for additional and alternative therapies, and expanded educational material and content.

We’ll use the clinical decision support technologies we already have in place to present these assessment tools and guidelines at the time needed within clinical workflows. Our goal is to provide the information to providers at the right time, so that they can engage in productive conversations with patients, make informed decisions and create optimal treatment plans.

4) Simplify access to Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs). Are you avoiding prescribing because it’s too hard to check PDMPs?

PDMPs are state-level databases that collect, monitor and analyze e-prescribing data from pharmacies and prescribers. The CDC Guidelines recommend clinicians should review the patient’s history of controlled substance prescriptions by checking PDMPs.

PDMPs, however, are not a unified source of information, which can make it challenging for providers to check them at the point of care. The College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) has called for better EHR-PDMP integration, combined with data-driven reports to identify physician prescribing patterns.

In 2018, we’re working on integrating the PDMP into the clinician’s workflow for every patient. The EHR will take PDMP data and provide real-time alert scores that can make it easier to discern problems at the point of care.

5) Predict risk. Can big data help you predict risk for addiction?

Allscripts has a team of data scientists dedicated to transforming data into information and actionable insights. These analysts combine vast amounts of information from within the EHR, our Clinical Data Warehouse – data that represents millions of patients – and public health mechanisms (such as PDMPs).

We use this “data lake” to develop algorithms to identify at-risk patients and reveal prescription patterns that most often lead to abuse, overdose and death. Our research on this is nascent, and early insights are compelling.

The opioid epidemic cannot be solved overnight, nor is it something any of us can address alone. But we are enthusiastic about the teamwork and efforts of our entire industry to address this complex, multi-faceted epidemic.

Hear Paul Black discuss the future of health IT beyond the EHR at this year’s HIT Expo.

For Hospitals: Tips On Working With An EHR Consulting Firm

Posted on April 19, 2018 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.

Even if you are a very experienced health IT pro, managing your relationship with an EHR consultant in no joke. There’s a lot at stake and only so much time to meet your goals.

Not only that, there are lots of ways a project can go wrong, such as 1) ending up with an EHR platform that’s no more or even less useful than it was before, 2) finding out that your newly updated or optimized EHR doesn’t work correctly or 3) spending a lot more than you expected on the contract.

That being said, you might benefit from the tips on working with consulting firms offered on the ever-insightful HISTalk site. My favorites include the following:

  • Don’t let consultants burn billable hours with your vendor or other consultants without your participation or approval.
  • Remember that the #1 job of consultants is to create fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) that you can survive without them.
  • Don’t be fooled by the sample resumes consulting firms provide during the selection process. In most cases, it is unlikely those will be the resources on your project. Bait and switch is common.
  • Call lots of references. Not the ones they gave you, but others on their “we’ve worked for every health system in the country” logo slide. Find out who is on their A team and get them.
  • Check their quoted number of employees (many firms are 70% temporary staffers). Go to LinkedIn and see how many people actually list them as an employer.
  • Interview the actual consultants who will work with you and ask hard technical questions.
  • Be aware that some firms might try to get you fired so they can put their replacement in as interim leadership and bill for it.

Wow, that’s a dark picture. You have to brace yourself for consulting firms which may be palming off inexperienced people on you, attempting to get you fired, trying to make you completely dependent on them and costing you more money than you planned to spend. It’s not a pretty picture.

On the other hand, few healthcare organizations can do completely without consultants, or the health IT consulting business would exist in the first place. Eventually, you’re probably going to have to bite the bullet and hire outside help. Just be aware of some of the risks associated with choosing the wrong consulting company.

Yes, hiring such a firm can be a bit concerning, but if you spend enough effort on the search you have a good chance of finding the right organization. Bottom line, if you’re skeptical, thorough and willing to go the extra mile research-wise, you can find a consulting firm that will serve your purposes and help you achieve the goals you wouldn’t be able to achieve without their help.

Health Leaders Go Beyond EHRs To Tackle Value-Based Care

Posted on March 30, 2018 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 broadest sense, EHRs were built to manage patient populations — but largely one patient at a time. As a result, it’s little wonder that they aren’t offering much support for value-based care as is, as a recent report from Sage Growth Partners suggests.

Sage spoke with 100 healthcare executives to find out what they saw as their value-based care capabilities and obstacles. Participants included leaders from a wide range of entities, including an ACO, several large physician practices and a midsize integrated delivery network.

The overall sense Sage seems to have gotten from its research was that while value-based care contracts are beginning to pay off, health execs are finding it difficult support these contacts using the EHRs they have in place. While their EHRs can produce quality reports, most don’t offer data aggregation and analytics, risk stratification, care coordination or tools to foster patient and clinician engagement, the report notes.

To get the capabilities they need for value-based contracting, health organizations are layering population health management solutions on top of their EHRs. Though these additional PHM tools may not be fully mature, health executives told Sage that there already seeing a return on such investments.

This is not necessarily because these organizations aren’t comfortable with their existing EHR. The Sage study found that 65% of respondents were somewhat or highly unlikely to replace their EHR in the next three years.

However, roughly half of the 70% of providers who had EHRs for at least three years also have third-party PHM tools in place as well. Also, 64% of providers said that EHRs haven’t delivered many important value-based contracting tools.

Meanwhile, 60% to 75% of respondents are seeking value-based care solutions outside their EHR platform. And they are liking the results. Forty-six percent of the roughly three-quarters of respondents who were seeing ROI with value-based care felt that their third-party population PHM solution was essential to their success.

Despite their concerns, healthcare organizations may not feel impelled to invest in value-based care tools immediately. Right now, just 5% of respondents said that value-based care accounted for over 50% of their revenues, while 62% said that such contracts represented just 0 to 10% of their revenues. Arguably, while the growth in value-based contracting is continuing apace, it may not be at a tipping point just yet.

Still, traditional EHR vendors may need to do a better job of supporting value-based contracting (not that they’re not trying). The situation may change, but in the near term, health executives are going elsewhere when they look at building their value-based contracting capabilities. It’s hard to predict how this will turn out, but if I were an enterprise EHR vendor, I’d take competition with population health management specialist vendors very seriously.

E-Patient Update:  Patients And Families Need Reassurance During EMR Rollouts

Posted on March 5, 2018 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.

Sure, EMR rollouts are stressful for hospital staffers and clinicians. No matter how well you plan, there will still be some gritted teeth and slammed keyboards as they get used to the new system. Some will afraid that they can’t get their job done right and live in fear of making a clinical mistake. All that said, if your rollout is gradual and careful, and your training process is thorough, it’s likely everyone will adjust to the new platform quickly.

The thing is, these preparations leave out two very important groups: patients and their families. What’s more, the problem is widespread. As a chronically ill patient, I visit more hospitals than most people, and I’ve never seen any effective communication that educates patients about the role of the EMR in their care. I particularly remember one otherwise excellent hospital that decorated its walls with asinine posters reading “Epic is here!” I can’t see how that could possibly help staff members make the transition, much less patients and family members.

This has got to change. Hospital IT will always be evolving, but when patients are swept up in and confused by these changes, it distorts everything that’s important in healthcare.

Needless fear

A recent experience my mother had exemplifies this problem. She has been keeping watch over my brother Joseph, who is critically ill with the flu and in an induced coma. For the first few days, as my brother gradually improved, my mother felt very satisfied with the way the clinical staff was handling his case.

Not long after, however, someone informed her that the hospital’s new Epic system was being deployed that day. Apparently, nobody explained what that really meant for her or my brother, and she felt that the ICU nurses and doctors were moving a bit more slowly during the first day or two of the launch. I wasn’t there, but I suspect that she was right.

Of course, if things go well, over the long run the Epic system will fade into the background and have no importance to patients and their families. But that day or two when the rollout came and staff seemed a bit preoccupied, it scared the heck out of her.

Keeping patients in the loop

Don’t get me wrong: I understand why this hospital didn’t do more to educate and reassure my mother. I suspect administrators wouldn’t know how to go about it, and probably feel they don’t they have time to do it. The idea is foreign. After all, communicating with patients about enterprise health IT certainly isn’t standard operating procedure.

But isn’t it time to involve patients in the game? I’m not just talking about consumer-facing technology, but any technology that could reasonably affect their experience and sense of comfort with the care they’re receiving.

Yes, educating patients and families about enterprise IT changes that affect them is probably out of most health IT leaders’ comfort zones. But truthfully, that’s no excuse for inaction. Launching an Epic system isn’t inside-baseball process — it affects everyone who visits the hospital. Come on, folks, let’s get this right.

Yale New Haven Hospital Partners With Epic On Centralized Operations Center

Posted on February 5, 2018 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.

Info, info, all around, and not a place to manage it all. That’s the dilemma faced by most hospitals as they work to leverage the massive data stores they’re accumulating in their health IT systems.

Yale New Haven Hospital’s solution to the problem is to create a centralized operations center which connects the right people to real-time data analytics. Its Capacity Command Center (nifty alliteration, folks!) was created by YNHH, Epic and the YNHH Clinical Redesign Initiative.

The Command Center project comes five years into YNHH’s long-term High Reliability project, which is designed to prepare the institution for future challenges. These efforts are focused not only on care quality and patient safety but also managing what YNHH says are the highest patient volumes in Connecticut. Its statement also notes that with transfers from other hospitals increasing, the hospital is seeing a growth in patient acuity, which is obviously another challenge it must address.

The Capacity Command Center’s functions are fairly straightforward, though they have to have been a beast to develop.

On the one hand, the Center offers technology which sorts through the flood of operational data generated by and stored in its Epic system, generating dashboards which change in real time and drive process changes. These dashboards present real-time metrics such as bed capacity, delays for procedures and tests and ambulatory utilization, which are made available on Center screens as well as within Epic.

In addition, YNHH has brought representatives from all of the relevant operational areas into a single physical location, including bed management, the Emergency Department, nursing staffing, environmental services and patient transport. Not only is this a good approach overall, it’s particularly helpful when patient admissions levels climb precipitously, the hospital notes.

This model is already having a positive impact on the care process, according to YNHH’s statement. For example, it notes, infection prevention staffers can now identify all patients with Foley catheters and review their charts. With this knowledge in hand, these staffers can discuss whether the patient is ready to have the catheter removed and avoid related urinary tract infections associated with prolonged use.

I don’t know about you, but I was excited to read about this initiative. It sounds like YNHH is doing exactly what it should do to get more out of patient data. For example, I was glad to read that the dashboard offered real-time analytics options rather than one-off projections from old data. Bringing key operational players together in one place makes great sense as well.

Of course, not all hospitals will have the resources to pull something off something like this. YNHH is a 1,541-bed giant which had the cash to take on a command center project. Few community hospitals would have the staff or money to make such a thing happen. Still, it’s good to see somebody at the cutting edge.

An EHR Vendor’s Efforts to Address Physician Burnout with Corinne Proctor Boudreau from MEDITECH

Posted on January 24, 2018 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.

Physician burnout is a major problem in healthcare. While there are a lot of things that are contributing to physician burnout, many like to point to the EHR as a major reason why so many physicians are getting burnt out. So, while the EHR can’t completely solve physician burnout, a well designed EHR can help to alleviate some of the stress a physician experiences.

With this idea in mind, we jumped at the chance to sit down with Corinne Proctor Boudreau, Senior Manager, Physician Experience at MEDITECH, to learn about what MEDITECH is hearing from their customers about physician burnout and what they’ve been doing and plan to do to alleviate this challenging problem.

Check out our full physician burnout interview with Corinne Proctor Boudreau embedded below or on YouTube.

You can find all of Healthcare Scene’s interviews on the Healthcare Scene YouTube channel. Also, at the start of the video, I mentioned our new conference, Health IT Expo happening at the end of May in New Orleans. We hope you’ll all be able to join us in New Orleans to learn about practical innovations that can benefit your organization.

Texas Hospital Association Dashboard Offers Risk, Cost Data

Posted on January 22, 2018 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 Texas Hospital Association has agreed to a joint venture with health IT vendor IllumiCare to roll out a new tool for physicians. The new dashboard offers an unusual but powerful mix of risk data and real-time cost information.

According to THA, physician orders represent 87% of hospital expenses, but most know little about the cost of items they order. The new dashboard, Smart Ribbon, gives doctors information on treatment costs and risk of patient harm at the point of care. THA’s assumption is that the data will cause them to order fewer and less costly tests and meds, the group says.

To my mind, the tool sounds neat. IllumiCare’s Smart Ribbon technology doesn’t need to be integrated with the hospital’s EMR. Instead, it works with existing HL-7 feeds and piggybacks onto existing user authorization schemes. In other words, it eliminates the need for creating costly interfaces to EMR data. The dashboard includes patient identification, a timer if the patient is on observational status, a tool for looking up costs and tabs providing wholesale costs for meds, labs and radiology. It also estimates iatrogenic risks resulting from physician decisions.

Unlike some clinical tools I’ve seen, Smart Ribbon doesn’t generate alerts or alarms, which makes it a different beast than many other clinical decision support tools. That doesn’t mean tools that do generate alerts are bad, but that feature does set it apart from others.

We’ve covered many other tools designed to support physicians, and as you’d probably guess, those technologies come in all sizes. For example, last year contributor Andy Oram wrote about a different type of dashboard, PeraHealth, a surveillance system targeting at-risk patients in hospitals.

PeraHealth identifies at-risk patients through analytics and displays them on a dashboard that doctors and nurses can pull up, including trends over several shifts. Its analytical processes pull in nursing assessments in addition to vital signs and other standard data sets. This approach sounds promising.

Ultimately, though, dashboard vendors are still figuring out what physicians need, and it’s hard to tell whether their market will stay alive. In fact, according to one take from Kalorama Information, this year technologies like dashboarding, blockchain and even advanced big data analytics will be integrated into EMRs.

As for me, I think Kalorama’s prediction is too aggressive. While I agree that many freestanding tools will be integrated into the EMR, I don’t think it will happen this or even next year. In the meantime, there’s certainly a place for creating dashboards that accommodate physician workflow and aren’t too intrusive. For the time being, they aren’t going away.

Merged Health Systems Face Major EHR Integration Issues

Posted on January 2, 2018 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.

Pity the IT departments of Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care. When the two health systems complete their merger, IT leaders face a lengthy integration process cutting across systems from three different EHR vendors or a forklift upgrade of at least one.

It’s tough enough to integrate different instances of systems from the same vendor, which, despite the common origin are often configured in significantly different ways. In this case, the task is exponentially more difficult. According to Fierce Healthcare, when the two organizations come together, they’ll have to integrate Aurora’s Epic EHR with the Cerner and Allscripts systems used by Advocate.

As part of his research, the reporter asked an Aurora spokesperson whether health systems attempt to pull together three platforms into a single EHR. Of course, as we know, that is unlikely to ever happen. While full interoperability is obviously an elusive thing, getting some decent data flow between two affiliated organizations is probably far more realistic.

Instead, depending on what happens, the new CIO might or might not decide to migrate all three EHRs onto one from a single vendor. While this could turn out to be a hellish job, it certainly is the ideal situation if you can afford to get there. However, that doesn’t mean it’s always the best option. Especially as health system mergers and acquisitions get bigger and bigger.

To me, however, the big question around all of this is how much the two organizations would spend to bring the same platforms to everyone. As we know, acquiring and rolling out Epic for even one health system is fiendishly expensive, to the point where some have been forced to report losses or have had ratings on the bond reduced.

My guess is that the leaders of the two organizations are counting often-cited merger benefits such as organizational synergies, improved efficiency and staff attrition to meet the cost of health IT investments like these. If this academic studies prove this will work, please feel free to slap me with a dead fish, but as for now I doubt it will happen.

No, to me this offers an object lesson in how mergers in the health IT-centered world can be more costly, take longer to achieve, and possibly have a negative impact on patient care if things aren’t done right (which often seems to be the case).

Given the other pressures health systems face, I doubt these new expenses will hold them back from striking merger deals. Generally speaking, most health systems face little choice but to partner and merge as they can. But there’s no point minimizing how much complexity and expense EHRs bring to such agreements today.