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Pricing Transparency and Provider Quality: Insights from Utah HIMSS

Posted on September 10, 2018 I Written By

Healthcare as a Human Right. Physician Suicide Loss Survivor. Janae writes about Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality, Data Analytics, Engagement and Investing in Healthcare. twitter: @coherencemed

Working to improve Health IT has been a major focus of Utah HIMSS this year. I am honored to serve as part of the Utah HIMSS Board. Utah HIMSS hosts educational events and luncheons for members. On August 29, 2018  the meeting focused on Pricing Transparency and Provider Quality. Health Informatics is positioned to help reduce waste in healthcare and providing better care for patients.

Bob White works with Select Health, one of the major insurance providers in the state, which is a subsidiary of Intermountain Healthcare. He was able to talk about payment models and value based care work within the Select Health group. Providing more visibility into the cost for patients and physicians has been a major focus on Select Health and payer provider entities have a unique market position. They want the cost of care delivery to be lower since they are paying the cost. Point of service adjudication requires that a lot of workflows need to be coordinated before the patient leaves the office.

Bob asked: How often do we feel like we don’t have complete information to know what is going on and what your options are?

One of the most notable things that he spoke about was the lack of adoption. They have great visibility but not everyone knows where to find that information. Some of the employees at Selecthealth have high deductible plans and in effect, become self-pay members. Becoming more educated consumers is a huge part of what Select Health has done with their pricing transparency.

Katie Harwood from the University Of Utah discussed their pricing transparency tool. The University of Utah is one of the first systems in the country to create an online interactive tool to help predict cost to patients. Patients can look up what a procedure might cost and enter information about their copay and caps. Most importantly, the cost estimator included the cost of facility and cost of provider, so patients don’t get stuck with unexpected out of network bills.

The most common search? Vaginal delivery without complications. I was thrilled to hear them speak because I’m pregnant and my provider is with the University of Utah Health. I got a cost estimate on my second visit to the OB and I was pleasantly surprised that they gave that information.  I was able to pay for what (might be) the cost of my maternity care. Being able to plan ahead is very valuable. The University of Utah has invested in creating bundled payment models to improve care coordination and as a patient, having that information has improved my healthcare experience.

While in development, the University of Utah wanted to add appointment scheduling for patients. Harwood mentioned this created a larger data matching challenge, as it was difficult to match exact providers with procedures. Insurance companies are trying to make it easier for patients to schedule and understand what their costs will be, and physician directories create unique challenges. What if you were a surgeon who performed a total knee replacement but you didn’t have the information connected with the correct insurance company for you to appear in the online scheduling tool?

Interestingly, many people go to the cost estimator tool enter “I don’t know” for some of their search criteria such as deductible and copay. Bridging the consumer gap to give even better information and creating the most accurate scheduling possible starts with efforts to create great health IT tools and adjusting them according to user behavior.

Holly Rimmasch from Health Catalyst was able to ask great questions and mentioned a program that Health Catalyst is doing to promote women in health IT. She served as a moderator and has an extensive background with pricing. They have promoted women in Health IT in the Utah area, including providing student scholarships for their Healthcare Analytics Summit in September.  A key question that Holly has focused on is “Are we making a difference in both quality and costs?”  “Does it translate into cost savings for those that are paying?” Part of her work involves bringing data sources together (clinical, financial, claims, etc.) to create transparency to services and care being provided and at what cost.  Over the last 6 years, Holly has been involved in developing a more accurate activity-based costing system. Accurate costing leads to more accurate pricing and more accurate pricing leads to improved price transparency. I am looking forward to learning more about what Health Catalyst does for improving Healthcare IT in Utah.

Norm Thurston is a Utah State Representative and I was surprised how much I enjoyed his presentation and I will tell you why. Norm Thurston has a background in statistics and I felt confident that the Utah legislature was getting good information about improving healthcare. Representative Thurston spoke about the availability of state data to see things like prescribing trends and billing trends among physicians. He asked Bob White about upcoding- and how the government of Utah looks at billing data to make that information more transparent for payers and providers. The checks and balances of legislators asking about trends based on data aren’t something I see every day in healthcare. Data backed inquiry can improve prescribing. Utah has had a decrease in opioid deaths in the last year, and the healthcare system and state efforts have actively used data to improve the numbers. Utah has historically been a state with a problem and has actively worked to improve rates of opioid deaths. One of the audience comments that I enjoyed was a question from Todd Allen, MD about how they evaluate the statistical significance of prescribing and billing differences. How do we know if using this drug or billing code 75% of the time has better outcomes that in the hospital where it is used less than 65% of the time? Having visibility and data is part of the equation for improving healthcare outcomes, and another part is interpreting the data and deciding best practices.

EHR Alerts, Top 10 Health IT Topics, Gesture Based EHR, and Adverse Events

Posted on December 18, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I thought it might be valuable to highlight a few interesting tweets I’ve seen recently. Some of them come from the other Healthcare Scene blogs, but I think you’ll find interesting.


Have alerts helped your organization? Alert fatigue is a very real thing, but when calibrated effectively, I’ve seen them really benefit an organization.


This is a fun list of healthcare topics. Do you see any topics that should be added to the list?


We’ve heard about gesture based EHR many times before. Mostly in the surgery room and mostly as demonstration projects. I don’t think this will really go huge and mainstream in healthcare, but could likely get some pickup for very targeted use cases.


Carl does a really great job in this article talking about Adverse Events and the legislation that’s proposed around EHR adverse events. This is a really important topic that doesn’t get nearly enough attention.

Marc Probst Takes Aim at Meaningful Use in Interview at CHIME

Posted on November 6, 2014 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.

One of the must read interviews coming out of the CHIME Fall Forum is Mark Hagland’s interview with Marc Probst. We know that Marc Probst had a growing dissatisfaction with meaningful use after he said he would love to kill meaningful use during National Health IT Week. He keeps on that same trajectory during this great interview by Mark. Although, I think Marc is just representing the feelings of many hospital CIOs.

Here are a few excerpts of the interview for those who don’t want to read the whole thing:

So what is meaningful use for you, as an IT pioneer?

Well, it’s a pain in the neck! We believe we were already some of the most meaningful users, in the broader sense of the term, in healthcare IT, prior to the meaningful use program. But meaningful use has imposed rigid functions that you have to do, and I don’t think it’s added any additional value to what our clinicians do, but only to add tasks. So it hasn’t been all that helpful. I sit on the [federal] IT Policy Committee, so I have a little to do with meaningful use, but nonetheless, it hasn’t been [satisfying].

Nice to see that Marc Probst is taking a little bit of accountability for meaningful use. Although, if you’ve ever sat on a committee you know that you can only do so much if the committee is against you. I think the thoughts above are the opinions of many in healthcare. Although, this simple quote from Marc Probst sums up what many would like to see done:

“I honestly think we should now declare victory and move on.”

Although, Marc Probst also offers this sobering reality that many healthcare CIOs will face:

But I think that a fair number are going to say, look, if I haven’t done it this year, I’ll get the penalties anyway if I haven’t yet attested to Stage 2. I think many will focus instead on ICD-10 and data security, because meaningful use is so frustrating and they don’t control the variables; and security, they can control some of the variables. And the penalties are much harsher for breaches than for meaningful use failure.

I’ve never seen someone compare the meaningful use penalties with the penalties for breaches. It’s a very interesting comparison. However, they are hard to compare since the meaningful use penalties are guaranteed to happen if you don’t attest to MU. The breach penalties only happen if you have a breach occur…or I should say if you have a breach occur and you realize it happened (or get caught). That’s likely why more people are concerned with the meaningful use penalties than security and privacy in their organization.

I think this type of sentiment about meaningful use will grow stronger and be heard from more areas of the country. Marc Probst and Intermountain are really powerful figures in the healthcare community. No doubt, Marc’s decision to speak out on this subject will embolden many others to do the same.

Go and read the rest of Mark Hagland’s interview with Marc Probst. Many more good perspectives in the full interview. I’m glad that people like Marc agree with me that we should Blow Up Meaningful Use and focus on interoperability.

Why Might Intermountain Have Chosen Cerner Over Epic?

Posted on July 14, 2014 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.

An anonymous person on HIStalk gave some really interesting insights into Intermountain’s decision to go with Cerner instead of Epic.

Re: Intermountain. The short-term choice (three or so years) would have been Epic, but we went with Cerner because of Epic’s dated technology, Cerner’s openness, and the feeling that we would be more of a partner than a customer with Cerner. The partnership is more than words. We’re working closely with Cerner and their horde of sharp, dedicated people on the implementation. We have some pieces they don’t and those are being built into the Cerner system, while some of our own development efforts have been redirected since Cerner already has that functionality. The first rollout is scheduled for December and I think it will go well due to the way the teams are working together. Unverified.

This is the best analysis of Intermountain’s decision to go with Cerner that I’ve seen. As in every billion dollar procurement decision, it’s always got other nuances and pieces that go into the decision making process. However, the above analysis gives us a good place to start.

Let’s look at the main points that are made:

1. Is Epic technology more dated than Cerner?

2. Is Cerner more open than Epic?

3. Will Cerner be more of a partner than Epic would have been?

I’d love to see Judy’s (Epic CEO’s) comments on all of these. I’m sure she’d have a lot to say about each of them. For example, you may remember that Judy described Epic as the most open system she knows. Ask someone who wants to get Epic certified if they’re open. Ask a health IT vendor that wants to work together if Epic is open. Ask even some of their smaller customers who want to do things with Epic if Epic is open. They’d all likely disagree that Epic is the most open system.

I’d love to hear people’s thoughts on each of these three points. I think it will make for a really lively discussion that will help us get closer to understanding the reality of these assertions.

However, reality aside, I can tell you that the public image of Epic vs Cerner certainly confirms all three of these points. Whether Intermountain indeed used these points as part of their decision process or not, I don’t know. What I do know is that it wouldn’t surprise me at all if they did think this way since there are many in the market that believe and share all of the above three impressions.

Large Health Systems May Miss Stage 2 Deadline

Posted on March 4, 2014 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.

Usually, it’s the small institutions that are having fits when an IT program deadline is approaching. This time around, it’s the big boys that are struggling.

Intermountain Healthcare has announced that the organization will probably not attest to Stage 2 of the Meaningful Use program this year over concerns about patient safety, according to iHealthBeat

In an interview with HealthLeaders Media, CIO Marc Probst said that with the organization transitioning from its own EMR to EMR software from Cerner, all the software will not be running at all of the locations by the end of this year. This isn’t surprising after the relatively recent announcement that Intermountain would be switching to Cerner.

It’s not clear what it says about the success of the Meaningful Use Stage 2 program, other than that Intermountain has other priorities, but it does make you wonder what other large health systems will take a similar posture.

After all, ONC Chief Medical Officer Jacob Rieder (who also spoke with HealthLeaders) said that other large institutions are reporting similar situations. As amazing as it sounds considering the money involved, I won’t be surprised if we see more institutions following similar paths. There are a decent number of hospitals that haven’t even selected an EHR software.

According to Reider, it will be easier for small providers to meet Stage 2 requirements, given that they generally don’t have to plan as far into the future. But when it comes to large health systems, it seems that achieving this year’s Meaningful Use goal is a bridge too far.

Cerner, Intermountain Form Major Development Partnership

Posted on October 1, 2013 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.

Normally, when I read the news of a vendor partnership, it’s a major snoozefest. After all, marketing deals and customer wins may be important to the vendor, but they don’t change our life much.

This time, though, I’m willing to go out a limb and say that the following is an important deal. Cerner, one of the leading players on the enterprise EMR front, has struck an agreement with healthcare chain Intermountain Healthcare under which the two will partner long-term on activity-based costing.

Intermountain, the largest health provider in the Intermountain West region of the US, is making a huge Cerner buy, Information Week reports. As part of its agreement with Cerner, Intermountain is tearing out its existing systems, including two EMRs, two billing systems and desktop integration system, and replacing them with Cerner technology.

In this deal, you can certainly chalk up one more win for Cerner, which has been gaining ground in the 200+ bed hospital segment of late. According to KLAS, the ratio of Epic-to-Cerner wins has fallen from 5-to-1 in 2010 to 2-to-1 in 2012 in this segment, according to the research firm.

But the agreement goes well beyond being a mere sale. Once the new, integrated Cerner system is in place, it will serve as the foundation for the long-term project partners have in mind.

Intermountain chose to partner with Cerner because of its system’s open architecture, which will allow for the addition of new content Intermountain plans to provide, CIO Marc Probst told Information Week.

The partners plan a closely-integrated relationship which involves the movement of several Cerner executives and staffers to Intermountain’s headquarters in Salt Lake City. Their work will include development of care process models, connectivity-based costing, advanced decision support and clinical workflows, IW reports.

Getting this work done requires little short of a wedding. ” “We’re looking at 20 plus years of collaboration. We have shared interests in making this be a great success,” Probst told the magazine.