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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.

Should Hospital Associations Choose EMRs?

Posted on October 10, 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.

Today I read a press release trumpeting the new relationship between the Texas Hospital Association and Enterasys Networks, which is now the THA’s preferred provider for wired and wireless network infrastructure products.

When I read this I found myself thinking “wow, is it really that easy?” Will hospitals rely on intermediaries like the THA to do the due diligence and sort out what sort of networking gear they should buy?

To me, this is an intriguing concept which could easily and logically extend to EMRs. After all, state hospital associations could do an analysis of an EMR’s technical strength, usability, interoperability and features as well as a  health system or hospital could.

It would certainly upend the industry if hospital associations routinely got down and dirty with EMRs, went through a selection process and put their “recommended” stamp on a small handful of systems.

If nothing else, it would be a shock to vendors, who would have to create new channel relationships with the associations, quickly and well. Marketing to associations wouldn’t superceded marketing to individual hospitals completely, but it would add a new layer of effort.

It would also give some attention to lesser-known EMR vendors. I’d argue that in an honest process, it’s unlikely that all — or even most — of the hospital associations would only choose as “winners” the enterprise EMRs that dominate the market today.  This is not to say that giants like Epic and Cerner would never be selected; it’s just that as I imagine it, a thorough hospital association selection process would identify some underdogs that deserve hospitals’ business.

The truth is, though, that most hospital associations wouldn’t want to go down the road of officially putting their stamp of approval on a small collection of EMRs. The task is enormous, the political costs high if members don’t agree with their choices, and the downside is considerable if a recommended vendor completely flames out in some way.

No,  it seems to me that while the THA has put its credibility on the line for Enterasys, I don’t see it (or its peers in other states) sticking an oar in the EMR selection business. There’s just too much at stake. They’ll spend their last penny fighting regulatory battles — particularly as Meaningful Use steams along — but hospital trade groups are not going to become the EMR Fairy.