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Geisinger Integrates Precision Medicine Into Care

Posted on May 21, 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.

Lately, it seems like we read about new advances in precision medicine every day. Increasingly, physicians are able to adjust drug therapies and predict conditions like cancer and heart disease before they blossom, particularly in the case of some cancers. However, many health organizations are still focused on research rather than delivering genomic medicine results to consumers.

The process of basing medical decisions on genomic data has certainly begun, with a number of health systems jumping on board. For example, a few months ago Intermountain Healthcare begin the process of validating and launching several tests designed to identify hereditary genetic patterns that might lead to disease. Intermountain expects this work to be particularly fruitful for individuals with a family history of breast cancer or ovarian cancer. The test should identify both those previously diagnosed with cancer and healthy individuals with hereditary cancer gene mutations.

Now, at least one health system is taking things even further. Geisinger Health says it has announced that it plans to expand its genomics program beyond its research phase and into everyday care for all patients. The new program will not only target patients who have obvious symptoms, but instead, all patients Geisinger treats. The health systems clinical DNA sequencing efforts will begin with a 1000-patient pilot program taking place in mid-to-late 2018.

According to David Ledbetter, Ph.D., Geisinger executive vice president and chief scientific officer, the program will not only help current patients but also amass data that will help future patients. “As we sequence the exomes of our patients and learn even more about particular genome variants and their impact on different health conditions, we predict that as many as 10 to 15 percent of our patients will benefit,” he said.

The new strategy follows on the success of its MyCode Community Health Initiative, which it launched in 2014 in collaboration with Regeneron Pharmaceuticals. Since then, Geisinger has been analyzing the DNA of patients participating in the program, which has attracted more than 190,000 patient sign-ups to date. To date, more than 500 MyCode participants have been notified that they have a genomic variant which increases the chance that they’ll develop cancer or heart disease.

Geisinger’s effort sounds exciting, there’s little doubt. However, programs like these face some obstacles which the health system wouldn’t call attention to a press release. For example, as my colleague John Lynn notes, integrating genomic data with other clinical information could be quite difficult, and sharing it even more so.

“Healthcare organizations have problems even sharing something as standard and simple as a PDF,” he wrote last year. “Once we have real genomic data and the markers behind them, EHRs won’t have any idea how to handle them. We’ll need a whole new model and approach or our current interoperability problems will look like child’s play.” Let’s hope the industry develops this new approach soon.

Hospitals Still Grappling With RCM Tech Infrastructure

Posted on May 18, 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.

While revenue cycle management isn’t the sexiest topic on the block, hospitals need to get it right or they won’t be able to pay their bills. One key element needed to accomplish this goal is a robust tech infrastructure that helps RCM specialists get their job done.

However, it seems that many hospitals are struggling to manage RCM data and pick out the right vendors to support their efforts, according to a report published by Dimensional Insight in collaboration with HIMSS Analytics. To conduct the research, the two organizations reached out to 117 senior-level decision-makers in hospitals and health systems.

According to the survey, more than two-thirds of health systems use more than one vendor for RCM. But that might be a bad idea. The research also found that organizations using more than one RCM vendor seem to face bigger issues with denials than those using only one RCM solution. Regardless, the execs said that denials were the biggest RCM challenge for health systems today.

Pulling together RCM data is a struggle too, respondents said. More than 95% of health systems reported that the way data is collected is a challenge. Also, nearly all respondents said that collecting RCM data from disparate sources is also difficult.

One reason why it’s tough for hospitals to put effective RCM technology in place may be that health information management directors and managers aren’t at the top of the influencer list when it comes to making these decisions.

When asked who the key stakeholders were in RCM. 91.5% said that the CFO was the most important, followed by the head of revenue cycle, who was ranked as important by 62.4% of respondents. Meanwhile, only 48.7% of respondents saw the health IT leaders as key stakeholders in the RCM environment. In other words, it looks like tech leaders aren’t given much clout.

When it came to technical infrastructure for RCM, respondents were all over the map. For example, 34.5% were working with an EMR and 3+ vendors. Another 12.1% used in EMR with one vendor, followed by 11.2% with 3+ vendor solutions, 6.9% using an EMR plus two vendors and 4.3% using two to vendor solutions. Clearly, there’s no single best practice for managing RCM technology in hospitals.

Not only that, some hospitals aren’t doing much to analyze the RCM data they’ve got. According to the survey, 23.9% said that 51 to 75% of the RCM process was automated, which isn’t too bad. However, 36.8% of hospitals reported that less than 25% of the revenue cycle process was driven by analytics. Also, roughly a third of respondents said that collecting data from diverse sources was extremely challenging, which can cripple an analytics initiative.

Taken as a whole, the report data suggests that hospitals need to improve their RCM game dramatically, which includes getting a lot smarter about RCM technology. Unfortunately, it looks like it could be a long time before this happens.

Effort Focuses On Better Ways For Hospitals To Detect Drug Diversion

Posted on May 17, 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.

Using a combination of machine learning technology and advanced analytics, a healthcare vendor has been working to find better ways to spot drug diversion in U.S. hospitals. The work done by the firm, Invistics, is funded by an NIH research grant.

The project has taken aim at a ripe target. According to a 2017 study by Porter Research, 96% of healthcare professionals who responded said that drug diversion happened often in their business. Also, sixty-five percent of respondents said that most diversion never gets detected. Clearly, there’s a hole you could drive a truck through in the drug dispensing process.

During the first stage of the research, Invistics worked with a pilot hospital to find opioid and drug theft across the entire facility. To get the job done, the vendor aggregated data from across the pilot hospital’s systems, including medical records, employee time clocks, wholesale purchasing, inventory and dispensing cabinets.

By leveraging data across several departments, Invistics got a much clearer view of potential problems than other efforts have in the past. The initiative was completely successful, with the technology picking out 100% of drug diversion happening within the project’s parameters, the company said. Since the completion of Phase I of the grant, Invistics has rolled out the solution at several other hospitals.

When it comes to avoiding opioid abuse, far morer attention has been focused on patterns of opioid prescribing, with the assumption that the opioid addiction epidemic can be stemmed at the source. For example, we recently covered a study looking at post hospital-discharge opioid use which centered on predicting which patients would be on chronic opioid therapy after discharge and planning for that discharge appropriately.

There’s no question that such research has a place in the battle against opioid misuse and abuse. After all, it seems likely that at least some needless addictive patterns stem from physician prescribing habits. It also makes sense that states are revising their guidelines for opioid prescribing, though to my knowledge these changes are being based more on ideology than rigorous research.

On the other hand, drug diversion creates a pipeline between drug supplies and drug abusers which must be addressed directly if the opioid abuse war is to be won. I for one was interested to learn about a solution that addresses this piece of the puzzle.

Lessons Learned from the 2017 AHIMA Information Governance Survey – HIM Scene

Posted on May 16, 2018 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Stephanie Crabb, Co-Founder and Principal at Immersive as part of the HIM Scene series of blog posts.

The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) 2017 Information Governance (IG) survey follows previous surveys administered in 2014 and 2015 to identify trends and offer insights associated with the healthcare industry’s understanding and adoption of IG. The good news from the 2017 survey is that awareness of IG, at least among the 1500+ survey respondents, is high with 84.6 percent reporting that they are familiar with IG. The bad news from the survey is that 51.6 percent of those same respondents report that lack of awareness or misunderstanding of IG is a barrier (the most significant barrier reported) to IG adoption in their organizations.

Who participated?

While the 2017 survey garnered more participation from outside the health information management professional community than previous efforts, it is important to note that the majority of respondents identified themselves as health information managers (HIM-ers). AHIMA’s work to raise IG awareness and educate the healthcare industry since 2012 has been significant and is to be commended. The body of knowledge created and published and the work completed is extraordinary; it has certainly paid off with its own constituents. Perhaps the survey demonstrates that there is still work to be done with additional stakeholders or that we need to do more to demonstrate the knowledge and capabilities that HIM-ers possess to support IG efforts.

IG Adoption, Drivers and Benefits

Based on what we see, read and experience, in every sector of the industry information and the data from which it is created are at the center of nearly every strategic and tactical activity. So why the disconnect, or the slow pace of formal IG adoption? Why did only 14.8 percent of respondents report an “initiated” IG program as illustrated below? Further, why did percent of respondents report that IG is not considered a priority in their organizations?

A closer look at what respondents had to say about the barriers to IG adoption is useful. The survey offered respondents a list of commonly-cited barriers to IG adoption across all industries and asked them to select their top three, resulting in the following:

For many, the term “governance” implies bureaucracy, expense, complexity, misplaced power and control, among other negative connotations. This may offer some context for these survey results and explain, in part, the top responses.

IG is a complex discipline, no doubt. However, everyone can identify IG or IG-like work that is getting done in their organization every day; it is just not formalized, organized or recognized as such. Sadly, much of that work is buried or siloed, in part, because it is not connected to a strategic imperative where it might gain greater visibility and appreciation as an IG effort.

The data around low IG adoption are even more confusing when we look at what respondents had to say about what they think does or should drive IG efforts. The survey demonstrates that there is no shortage of compelling and meaningful drivers to spur action. While the survey did not provide respondents with the same response choice options for “drivers” and “benefits” there was a connection and association reflected in the responses to these two questions.


These responses reflect an impressive number of business units, departments and individuals–workforce and patients—that can truly be served by and through IG.

What’s Changed from 2014 to 2017?

In 2014, 43% of respondents reported that a formal IG program had been initiated compared to 14.8% of respondents in 2017. What contributes to this dramatic change? Does it reflect organization abandonment of previously initiated IG efforts? Does it reflect that respondents are more educated today so what they labeled as IG in 2014 was not really IG? This area may warrant further exploration in future survey efforts.

In 2014, respondents cited “strong agreement” with regulatory compliance (80 percent), improvement in patient care and safety (73 percent) and the need to manage and contain costs (61 percent) as the top three drivers for IG, followed by analytics and business intelligence (53 percent). Interestingly, trust and confidence in data was the lowest rated driver. In 2017, data quality and trust ranked second. Analytics and business intelligence tops the list of drivers, patient safety falls to the middle and regulatory compliance is at the very bottom of the list.

The most promising insight from the 2017 survey is that data governance (DG) is a growing priority and reality in healthcare. Thirty percent of respondents reported a “formal structure” for DG in their organization. There is still a bit of confusion between IG and DG as disciplines. DG is one of the competencies in AHIMA’s IG Adoption Model and often referenced as a sub-domain of IG in other reference models. Simply stated, data are the building blocks of information, so DG is requisite to IG. One takeaway from the survey is that healthcare organizations are progressing along a path that positions DG as a precursor to IG, rather than a component of IG.

Conclusion

While the drivers for IG seem to have shifted over the time that AHIMA has spent surveying the industry, there is a universality to the vision and expectation that healthcare wants and needs to put its data and information to work to accomplish its ambitious and complex mission. Much of AHIMA’s and its IG partners’ work to document the experiences of IG pioneers is available at IGIQ.org.

Have ideas about how we can better study the topic of IG and deliver meaningful insights to you? Please share your comments.

About Stephanie Crabb
Stephanie is Co-Founder and Principal at Immersive, a healthcare data lifecycle management company where she leads program and solution development, knowledge management and customer success. Stephanie brings 25 years of experience in the healthcare industry where she has served in program/solution development, client service and business development roles for leading firms including The Advisory Board Company, WebMD, CTG Health Solutions and CynergisTek. She has led a number of program and product launches with an emphasis on competitive differentiation, rapid adoption, client satisfaction, and strategic portfolio management.

Prior to her work at these firms Stephanie worked for a large Maternal and Child Health Bureau grantee working on the national Bright Futures and Healthy Start initiatives to develop and document best practices in the care continuum for pediatrics and infant mortality, and to inform federal and state health policy initiatives in these areas.

Stephanie holds her A.B. and A.M. from the University of Chicago. Stephanie serves as the Scholarship Chair of CNFLHIMSS, on AHIMA’s Data Analytics Practice Council and recently completed a two-year term on the Advisory Board of the Association for Executives in Healthcare Information Security (AEHIS) of CHIME.

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

Making Healthcare Data Useful

Posted on May 14, 2018 I Written By

The following is a guest blog by Monica Stout from MedicaSoft

At HIMSS18, we spoke about making health data useful to patients with the Delaware Health Information Network (DHIN). Useful data for patients is one piece of the complete healthcare puzzle. Providers also need useful data to provide more precise care to patients and to reach patient populations who would benefit directly from the insights they gain. Payers want access to clinical data, beyond just claims data, to aggregate data historically. This helps payers define which patients should be included in care coordination programs or who should receive additional disease management assistance or outreach.

When you’re a provider, hospital, health system, health information exchange, or insurance provider and have the data available, where do you start? It’s important to start at the source of the data to organize it in a way that makes insights and actions possible. Having the data is only half of the solution for patients, clinicians or payers. It’s what you do with the data that matters and how you organize it to be usable. Just because you may have years of data available doesn’t mean you can do anything with it.

Historically, healthcare has seen many barriers to marrying clinical and claims data. Things like system incompatibility, poor data quality, or siloed data can all impact organizations’ ability to access, organize, and analyze data stores. One way to increase the usability of your data is to start with the right technology platform. But what does that actually mean?

The right platform starts with a data model that is flexible enough to support a wide variety of use models. It makes data available via open, standards-based APIs. It organizes raw data into longitudinal records. It includes services, such as patient matching and terminology mapping, that make it easy to use the data in real-world applications. The right platform transforms raw data into information that that aids providers and payers improve outcomes and manage risk and gives patients a more complete view of their overall health and wellness.

Do you struggle with making your data insightful and actionable? What are you doing to transform your data? Share your insights, experiences, challenges, and thoughts in the comments or with us on Twitter @MedicaSoftLLC.

About Monica Stout
Monica is a HIT teleworker in Grand Rapids, Michigan by way of Washington, D.C., who has consulted at several government agencies, including the National Aeronautics Space Administration (NASA) and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). She’s currently the Marketing Director at MedicaSoft. Monica can be found on Twitter @MI_turnaround or @MedicaSoftLLC.

About MedicaSoft
MedicaSoft  designs, develops, delivers, and maintains EHR, PHR, and UHR software solutions and HISP services for healthcare providers and patients around the world. MedicaSoft is a proud sponsor of Healthcare Scene. For more information, visit www.medicasoft.us or connect with us on Twitter @MedicaSoftLLC, Facebook, or LinkedIn.

Beth Israel Deaconess Launches Health Innovation Center

Posted on May 7, 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 yet another example of a health system bringing innovation home, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center has launched an in-house center combining the feel of a startup incubator and the vast reach of a globally-known provider.

It’s not clear yet whether this emerging model will be more powerful than plain old incubators, but there are a lot of resources at play here. (It’s worth pointing out that only one of the factors that distinguish it is that the center will be based at a Harvard teaching hospital.}

The Health Technology Exploration Center will be led by John Halamka, MD, MS, chief information officer of the Beth Israel Deaconess system. As the health systems press release rightly notes, Halamka already has his fingerprints on many important advances in health IT, including patient portals, unique web-based medical records, and advances in secure patient data exchange. It also notes that he has brought together collaborations with global HIT thought leaders such Google, Amazon, Apple and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. (Did we mention that the man is non-stop?)

The HTEC’s first focus areas will come as no surprise. They include helping patients manage their own health using mobile application; improving patient education and care through natural language interfaces; optimizing medical decision-making with dashboards and analytics; and enhancing patient/clinician communication using new devices and programs.

Though the press release doesn’t make a big thing of it, the website makes it clear that a lot of what its leaders would like to do haven’t been paid for just yet. However, the health system has already laid out its plans for when it gets enough contributions to support the program.

If the HTEC is fully funded, the system would make investments in faculty, staff and infrastructure that would help it take on local national and international partnerships. HTEC would also generate research intended to usher in breakthrough healthcare technology options.

I’d like to take a minute and say that not only is this great, it should be more commonplace than it is. Yes, few healthcare organizations have the clout and resources that a system affiliated with Harvard has, and that’s unlikely to change. But that doesn’t mean smaller facilities are out of the running.

What I’d like to see for virtually every facility to capture more of the value it creates during the process of everyday patient care. Given the extent to which healthcare data is shareable, recordable and integrable, providers don’t have to stop what they’re doing to amass data and expertise that benefit everyone in the profession. I believe it’s not only possible but necessary.

PX2018: The Line Between Patient Experience and Patient Engagement Continues to Blur

Posted on May 4, 2018 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 2018 Patient Experience Conference, #PX2018, hosted by The Beryl Institute, was a wholly different than previous incarnations. In prior years the central focus was squarely on patient experience. This year, there was significant emphasis placed on patient engagement and activating patients. It was a welcome change.

The Beryl Institute’s annual conference is one of the events I look forward to each year. It is a positive, upbeat, and reaffirming event that brings together healthcare professionals involved with improving patient experience. Attendees come from around the world including: Canada, UK, Sweden and Asia. This gives the event an international flavor and brings together many different perspectives on patient experience.

In 2004, I attended my first patient experience conference. Back then the event was organized and hosted by the Society of Healthcare Consumer Advocacy (SHCA) – a society within the American Hospital Association. In those days, the annual gathering was designed specifically for Patient Feedback professionals and Patient Advocates that worked inside hospitals. The event, was dominated by sessions about patient surveys (later becoming HCAHPS) and timely responses to patient complaints. For many years the annual SHCA event remained operationally focused.

In 2013, SHCA was integrated into The Beryl Institute and things began to shift markedly. Instead of an annual SHCA conference that was narrowly aimed at patient complaints, the new conference from The Beryl Institute was much broader and covered the whole of patient experience. The sessions became less operational and more strategic in nature. Words like “empathy” and phrases like “meeting patients where they are” became part of the hallway chatter.

Fast forward to 2018. “Patient Experience” has become an even broader term and perhaps slightly overused. All sorts of HealthIT companies and consulting firms now boldly state they are in the patient experience business. The term is now used to refer to everything from patient advocacy to patient rights to online reviews (and reputation management) to patient engagement/activation. As the definition has changed, so too has The Beryl Institute conference.

The first hint that something was different came when I scanned the program agenda a few weeks before the conference. There were several sessions that I did not expect to see:

  • Engaging Families and Teams in I-PASS to Improve Patient Safety and Experience
  • OpenNotes: Breaking Barriers, Changing Culture, Engaging Patients
  • Building Operational Capacity for Patient Engagement

I was also pleasantly surprised by the depth and breadth of vendors in the exhibit hall. Companies like OneView, TVR Communications, Relatient and eVariant each had demonstrations of products that educated patients, reminded patients about their care plans and directed patients to the most appropriate service line or physician based on an analysis of their needs. All of these capabilities are focused in the world of patient engagement yet judging by the busy traffic at these booths, it is clear that patient experience professionals are stakeholders and influencers for the purchase of those solutions.

Even consulting companies like Cast & Hue (who did a fun design-thinking exercise in their booth) talked about how they can help healthcare organizations build better processes and workflows to encourage more patient involvement.

I welcome the blurring between patient experience and patient engagement. Although it is possible to be good at one without the other, the goal should be to improve one alongside the other. To me, patient engagement is tangible and measurable – something which was becoming increasingly difficult to do in the world of patient experience pre-2010. I believe a good patient experience is a prerequisite to engaging patients in their care which leads to better outcomes – which is ultimately the goal we are all striving for.

Small Financial Innovations that Make A Big Difference for Patients and Hospitals

Posted on May 3, 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.

More and more these days I’m fascinated by the practical innovations that can impact healthcare much more than the moonshot ideas which are great ideas but never actually impact healthcare. I’ve quickly come to believe that the way to transform healthcare his through hundreds of little innovations that will allow us to reach a transformative future.

I saw an example of this when I talked with PatientMatters. They work in a section of healthcare that many don’t consider sexy: revenue cycle management. However, I often say, the financial side of healthcare isn’t sexy, unless you care about money. Given how healthcare is getting pressed from every angle, every hospital I know is interested in the financial side of the equation.

PatientMatters is doing a number of things that are interesting when it comes to a patient’s financial experience in a hospital. They offer a great mix of tools, training, process design, automation and coaching to reframe a patient’s financial experience. This is a trend I’m seeing in more and more healthcare IT companies. It takes much more than technology to really change the experience.

That said, I was most intrigued by how PatientMatters offers unique payment plans to patients based on a wide variety of factors including current credit information, payment history for current financial obligations, and their residual income. From this information PatientMatters does an assessment of a patient’s ability to pay based on these five categories:

  1. Guarantors that generate this designation are the most likely to pay their full obligation. This population predictably pays their full balance more than 94% of the time. Recognizing these guarantors provides key savings to the hospital:
    • Because these guarantors are most likely to meet their obligation, conversations with the registration staff regarding payment are brief and concise.
    • Recognizing the high likelihood of guarantor payment performance, many hospitals elect to keep these accounts in-house and not refer to their early out vendors. This generates vendor savings for the hospital.
  1. These guarantors also have a high collections success rate, but they may need more time and slightly reduced payment plans to meet their obligation. Using data analytics to understand the guarantor allows the hospital to structure a custom payment plan with a high likelihood of performance.
  1. Guarantors in this category require a higher degree of attention from the registration team. This group struggles to meet their financial responsibilities. A hospital that spends the extra time working with the guarantor on a highly structured payment plan will see collection improvements with this population.
  1. These guarantors fall into two categories; a) a low likelihood of meeting their financial commitment or b) guarantor may meet hospital charity program, based on their FPL status. Scripting will help the registration assess the guarantor and identify the best solution.
  1. These guarantors will likely be unable to meet their hospital obligation. Many times these individuals will qualify for the hospital charity, Medicaid, County Indigent or other assistance programs.

It’s not hard to see how this more personalized approach to a patient’s financial experience makes a big difference when it comes to collections, patient satisfaction, etc. However, what I loved most about this approach was how simple it was to understand and process. It’s worth remembering that a hospital’s registration staff are generally one of the lowest paid, highest turnover positions in any hospital. So, simplicity is key.

I love seeing practical, innovative solutions like the one PatientMatters offers hospitals. They make a big difference on a hospital’s bottom line. However, they also create a much better experience for the patients who mostly want to get through the billing process and on to their care. How are you customizing the financial experience for your patients?

VA Lighthouse Lab – Is the Healthcare Industry Getting It Right?

Posted on April 30, 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.

The following is a guest blog by Monica Stout from MedicaSoft

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs announced the launch of their Lighthouse Lab platform at HIMSS18 earlier this year. Lighthouse Lab is an open API framework that gives software developers tools to create mobile and web applications to help veterans manage their VA care, services, and benefits. Lighthouse Lab is also intended to help VA adopt more enterprise-wide and commercial-off-the-shelf products and to move the agency more in line with digital experiences in the private sector. Lighthouse Lab has a patient-centric end goal to help veterans better facilitate their care, services, and benefits.

Given its size and reach, VA is easily the biggest healthcare provider in the country. Adopting enterprise-level HL7 Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR)-based application programming interfaces (APIs) as their preferred way to share data when veterans receive care both in the community and VA sends a clear message to industry: rapidly-deployed, FHIR-ready solutions are where industry is going. Simple and fast access to data is not only necessary, but expected. The HL7 FHIR standard and FHIR APIs are here to stay.

There is a lot of value in using enterprise-wide FHIR-based APIs. They use a RESTful approach, which means they use a uniform and predefined set of operations that are consistent with the way today’s web and mobile applications work. This makes it easier to connect and interoperate. Following an 80/20 rule, FHIR focuses on hitting 80% of common use cases instead of 20% of exceptions. FHIR supports a whole host of healthcare needs including mobile, flexible custom workflows, device integrations, and saving money.

There is also value in sharing records. There are so many examples of how a lack of interoperability has harmed patients and hindered care coordination. Imagine if that was not an issue and technology eliminated those issues. With Lighthouse Lab, it appears VA is headed in the direction of innovation and interoperability, including improved patient care for the veterans it serves.

What do you think about VA Lighthouse Lab? Will this be the impetus to push the rest of the healthcare industry toward real interoperability?

About Monica Stout
Monica is a HIT teleworker in Grand Rapids, Michigan by way of Washington, D.C., who has consulted at several government agencies, including the National Aeronautics Space Administration (NASA) and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). She’s currently the Marketing Director at MedicaSoft. Monica can be found on Twitter @MI_turnaround or @MedicaSoftLLC.

About MedicaSoft
MedicaSoft  designs, develops, delivers, and maintains EHR, PHR, and UHR software solutions and HISP services for healthcare providers and patients around the world. MedicaSoft is a proud sponsor of Healthcare Scene. For more information, visit www.medicasoft.us or connect with us on Twitter @MedicaSoftLLC, Facebook, or LinkedIn.

Despite EMR, Revenue Cycle Management Costs Were Still Substantial

Posted on April 26, 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.

While they may not say so out loud, most healthcare organizations bought EMRs largely because they believed they could use them to lower revenue cycle management expenses. If so, they may be somewhat disappointed. A new study has concluded that at least in one case, the presence of a certified EMR didn’t make much of a dent in these costs.

­To conduct the study, researchers conducted interviews with 27 health system administrators and 34 physicians at a large academic medical center. The interviews took place in 2016 and 2017. The research team used the feedback to create a process map charting the path of an insurance claim through the RCM process.

Using this data, the researchers calculated the cost of each major billing and insurance-related activity, as well as a total cost of processing a claim from end to end. The data included costs for five types of patient encounters, including primary care visits, discharge ED visits, general medicine inpatient stays, ambulatory surgical procedures and inpatient surgical procedures.

The team concluded that estimated processing times and total costs for billing and insurance-related activities were 13 minutes and $20.49 for a primary care visit, 32 minutes and $61.54 for a discharged ED visit, 73 minutes and $124.26 for a general inpatient stay, 75 minutes and $170.40 for an ambulatory surgical procedure and 100 minutes and $215.10 for an inpatient surgical procedure.

To put these numbers in perspective, the research team noted that billing costs represented an estimated 14.5% of professional revenue for primary care visits, 25.2% for emergency department visits, 8% for general medicine inpatient stays, 13.4% for ambulatory surgical procedures and 3.1% for inpatient surgical procedures.

There are more than a few unfortunate things to be seen in these numbers.

One is that primary care practices spent a very high percentage of revenue on RCM, which could be crushing given their typically low margins. Given that PCPs are already being squeezed by patients who can’t afford to meet their high deductibles, this is a recipe for financial disaster.

It’s also troubling to see that that the academic medical center in question was spending more than 25% of its ED revenue chasing insurance payments. I found myself wondering whether ED prices might drop to a reasonable level if it was easier for these departments to collect from insurers.

It’s scary to think that these numbers might’ve been higher before the academic medical center installed its EMR. As things stand, if the EMR is lowering RCM costs, it doesn’t seem to be having a major impact. But I’m just guessing here — what do you think?