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Poll: Providers Struggle To Roll Out Big Data Analytics

Posted on April 10, 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

A new poll by a health IT publication has concluded that while healthcare organizations would like to roll out big data analytics projects, they lack many of the resources they need to proceed.

The online poll, conducted by, found that half of respondents are hoping to recruit data science experts to serve as the backbone of their big analytics efforts. However, many are finding it very difficult to find the right staffers.

What’s more, such hires don’t come cheaply. In fact, one study found that data scientist salaries will range from $116,000 to $163,500 in 2017, a 6.4 percent increase over last year’s levels. (Other research concludes that a data scientist in management leading a team of 10 or more can draw up to $250,000 per year.) And even if the pricetag isn’t an issue, providers are competing for data science talent in a seller’s market, not only against other healthcare providers but also hungry employers in other industries.

Without having the right talent in place, many of providers’ efforts have been stalled, the publication reports. Roughly 31 percent of poll respondents said that without a data science team in place, they didn’t know how to begin implementing data analytics initiatives.

Meanwhile, 57 percent of respondents are still struggling with a range of predictable health IT challenges, including EMR optimization and workflow issues, interoperability issues and siloed data. Not only that, for some getting buy-in is proving difficult, with 34 percent reporting that their clinical end users aren’t convinced that creating analytics tools will pay off.

Interestingly, these results suggest that providers face bigger challenges in implementing health data than last year. In last year’s study by, 47 percent said interoperability was a key challenge. What’s more, just 42 percent were having trouble finding analytics staffers for their team.

But at the same time, it seems like provider executives are throwing their weight behind these initiatives. The survey found that just 17 percent faced problems with getting executive buy-in and budget constraints this year, while more than half faced these issues in last year’s survey.

This squares with research released a few months ago by IT staffing firm TEKSystems, which found that 63 percent of respondents expected to see their 2017 budgets increase this year, a big change from the 41 percent who expected to see bigger budgets last year.

Meanwhile, despite their concerns, providers are coping well with at least some health IT challenges, the survey noted. In particular, almost 90 percent of respondents reported that they are live on an EMR and 65 percent are using a business intelligence or analytics solution.

And they’re also looking at the future. Three-quarters said they were already using or expect to enhance clinical decision making, along with more than 50 percent also focusing laboratory data, data gathered from partners and socioeconomic or community data. Also, using pharmacy data, patient safety data and post-acute care records were on the horizon for about 20 percent of respondents. In addition, 62 percent said that they were interested in patient-generated health data.

Taken together, this data suggests that as providers have shifted their focus to big data analytics– and supporting population health efforts – they’ve hit more speed bumps than expected. That being said, over the next few years, I predict that the supply of data scientists and demand for their talents should fall into alignment. For providers’ sake, we’d better hope so!

Thoughts on Leveraging EMRs Effectively

Posted on September 28, 2015 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

Whenever I scan Twitter for #HIT ideas, I find something neat. For example, consider this intriguing tweet:

I say intriguing not because the formula outlined will surprise anyone, but rather, because it captures some very difficult problems in a concise and impactful manner.

Here’s some thoughts on the issues Portnoy raises:

* Optimization:  Of course, every healthcare IT organization works to optimize every technology it deploys. But doing so with EMRs is one of the most difficult problems it is likely to encounter. Not only do IT leaders need to optimize the EMR platform technically, they may also face external demands placed by ACOs, HIE partners and affiliated providers. And it’s also important to optimize for Meaningful Use functions.

* Workflows:  Building workflows that address the needs of various stakeholders is critical, as pre-designed vendor workflow options may be far from adequate. While implementing an EMR may be an opportunity for a hospital to redesign workflows, or to enshrine existing workflows in the EMR interface and logic, hospital leaders need to take charge of the workflow implementation process. Inefficiencies at this level can be costly and will erode the confidence of clinical teams.

* Revenue capture:  When properly implemented, EMRs can help providers generate more complete documentation for claims reimbursement, which leads to higher collections volume. As time has shown, difficult-to-use EMRs can lead to physician frustration, and in turn, cut-and-paste re-use of existing documentation — which is why carefully-designed workflow is so important. But if they are used appropriately, EMRs can boost revenue painlessly.

* Patient and provider engagement: True, IT needs to take the lead on getting the EMR in place, and must make some important deployment decisions on its own. Still, hospitals will have trouble meeting their goals if patients and providers aren’t invested in its success, and without patient interest in their data I’d argue that meeting long-term population health goals is unlikely. On the flip side, if clinicians and patients are engaged, the feedback they offer can help hospitals shape not only the future of their EMR, but also the rest of their clinical data infrastructure.

If there’s any common theme to all of this, I’d submit, it’s participation. Unlike most efforts corporate IT departments undertake, EMR rollouts are unlikely to work until everyone they touch gets on board. Hospitals can invest in any EMR technology they like, but if providers can’t use the system comfortably to document care, patients don’t log on to access their data, or revenue cycle managers don’t see how it can improve revenue capture, the project is unlikely to offer much ROI.

EPIC Workflow Change Requirements

Posted on June 5, 2012 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the 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 and John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Katherine Rourke posted a pretty controversial post about EMR Workflow Changes over on EMR and HIPAA. The post has driven a lot of discussion in the comments of the post and on the various social media channels. Although, one comment from Chris Westcott caught my attention today:

This is a very interesting topic! It seems to me the proof is in the putting…. the most successful product, EPIC, generally forces a change in Clinical Workflow. I think this ridgid aspect of their product actually ends up being why they are so successful. What I hear in the market indicates that the more vendors try to adjust to fit various workflows, the less successful the install becomes (especially based on meaningful use metrics).

I have heard that Epic is pretty hard core when it comes to their workflows. Sure, every EHR vendor has plenty of configuration options, but some EHR develop more custom workflows than others. As such, Chris raises an interesting question about whether this rigidity in workflow is one of the reasons that Epic has been so successful.

One thing I’ve seen first hand is that too much massive software customization on the initial install usually leads to a long term pains. Once it’s time to upgrade the EHR software, you’ve usually forgotten all the unique customizations that you’ve made. In many cases, the person that implemented those customizations has left the hospital and so they are no longer there to remind users of the impact an EHR upgrade will have on those customizations.

What do you see? How much clinical workflow should be adjusted during an EHR implementation?

Guest Post: iPad or Android? Maybe We Need Both

Posted on March 16, 2012 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

This post is written by Brian Martin, MD.

Brian Martin is a physician informaticist – a software engineer who went to medical school, spent most of his career designing clinical software, and now spends his time helping physicians select technologies that improve their personal lives, their clinical practice, and the health of their patients.

I was asked today about whether iPad or Android-based devices will become the device of choice for practicing physicians. My answer? It could be that both have their place.

The issue isn’t whether someone will create the perfect iPad or Android tablet. Technological barriers, security issues, hackers, HIPAA, encryption, voice recognition, handwriting recognition are all technology problems. Easily solvable, especially with all the under-employed rocket scientists looking for work.

The hard work is to develop an elegant solution to the user experience that lies at the crossroads between technology and the physician’s workflow. And different situations may call for different devices.

If the doc is seeing patients in an outpatient setting or rounding on inpatients, then it’ll be the iPad. If the doc is away from the office or hospital, on personal time, then it’ll be the fits-in-your-pocket mobile device – an iPhone or Android device. It’s all about the user experience, how the technology fits into the doc’s workflow, and how the technology impacts the patient’s experience of the face-to-face physician visit.

For many, and perhaps the majority of physicians, being a doc isn’t a 40 hour-per-week job that you leave at the office. Not a chance. Clinical excellence is more than a full-time commitment, and for many, it’s a 24×7 commitment. Sure, you can go out to a nice restaurant, play a round of golf, a set of tennis, but…

When you are away from the office or hospital, and one of your patients needs your attention, do you really want to interrupt your personal life to drive to the office?

Or if you’re on a dinner date with your spouse/partner/date, and the lab calls to say that one of your patients has a wacked-out finding that you need to make an immediate treatment decision on, do you cancel your date and head back to the office? I wouldn’t want to. But if I’ve got 3,000 patients in my practice, I don’t have a choice, simply because I’m not going to rely on sheer memory power, no matter how highly I might think of myself (snicker if you will), to remember what diagnoses and allergies this patient has, what medications I’ve prescribed and why, and what the last test results were. Nope. No one’s that good.

But what if I could excuse myself for 5 minutes, step outside, pull this patient’s summary EMR up on my iPhone, make a diagnostic and treatment decision, select and submit one of my standard order sets, transmit a prescription to the pharmacy, then call the patient and tell him to stop taking one of his medications and go to his pharmacy to pick up the medications I just prescribed? Fantastic! I don’t cancel my date and ruin what was developing into a seriously romantic evening, my patient is properly managed, and life is good.

Have you ever seen a doctor walk into the doctor’s lounge in the hospital, then call the nursing station with his/her patient orders just to avoid entering data into the hospital’s EMR? I have. I’ve also watched my primary-care physician, who is not a touch typist, try to maintain eye contact with me while his eyes flitted rapidly between the keyboard and monitor.

And why can’t he maintain eye contact? Because his employer mandated that all physicians do their own clinical data entry, including progress notes, lab and medication orders, referrals, etc. Sure, that’ll get the employer to HIMSS Level 6, but at what cost? Or imagine a psychiatrist constantly switching his/her attention between the patient and a computer monitor during a psychotherapy session… And if that patient has paranoid/delusional traits?

I have yet to see an EMR with a keyboard/mouse/monitor (KMM) interface that does not interfere with the physician/patient experience. What we need is a technology that enhances the clinical experience FOR THE PATIENT. Docs know how to use traditional paper charts and pens for taking notes and looking up information during a face-to-face patient consultation, while keeping their focus on the patient. The iPad is the closest we have to a replacement for the pen and paper chart. Creating iPad, iPhone and Android interfaces to existing EMRs can be a first step.

The hard work is to develop an elegant solution to the user experience that lies at the crossroads between technology and the physician’s workflow. And different situations may call for different devices.

So. If you are a C-level health systems exec who is being pitched to make a “me-too” decision to spend mega bucks on an enterprise-wide KMM-interface EMR built using 1960s-era software (MUMPS is the COBOL of medicine), spend some time walking around and visiting docs in your community who use EMRs. Ask them if they’ll let you watch how they interact with their patients and their EMR. Pay attention to the user experience, and ask them about some of the scenarios I’ve described above. Then watch a three-year-old use an iPad.