EHR and Health IT Consulting
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EHR and Health IT Consulting
Technical Doctor's insights and information collated from various sources on EHR selection, EHR implementation, EMR relevance for providers and decision makers
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Key Big Data Challenges Providers Must Face

Key Big Data Challenges Providers Must Face | EHR and Health IT Consulting | Scoop.it

Everybody likes to talk about the promise of big data, but managing it is another story. Taming big data will take new strategies and new IT skills, neither of which are a no-brainer, according to new research by the BPI Network.


While BPI Network has identified seven big data pain points, I’d argue that they boil down to just a few key issues:


Data storage and management:  While providers may prefer to host their massive data stores in-house, this approach is beginning to wear out, at least as the only strategy in town. Over time, hospitals have begun moving to cloud-based solutions, at least in hybrid models offloading some of their data. As they cautiously explore outsourcing some of their data management and storage, meanwhile, they have to make sure that they have security locked down well enough to comply with HIPAA and repel hackers.


Staffing:  Health IT leaders may need to look for a new breed of IT hire, as the skills associated with running datacenters have shifted to the application level rather than data transmission and security levels. And this has changed hiring patterns in many IT shops. When BPI queried IT leaders, 41% said they’d be looking for application development pros, compared with 24% seeking security skills. Ultimately, health IT departments will need staffers with a different mindset than those who maintained datasets over the long term, as these days providers need IT teams that solve emerging problems.


Data and application availability: Health IT execs may finally be comfortable moving at least some of their data into the cloud, probably because they’ve come to believe that their cloud vendor offers good enough security to meet regulatory requirements. But that’s only a part of what they need to consider. Whether their data is based in the cloud or in a data center, health IT departments need to be sure they can offer high data availability, even if a datacenter is destroyed. What’s more, they also need to offer very high availability to EMRs and other clinical data-wrangling apps, something that gets even more complicated if the app is hosted in the cloud.


Now, the reality is that these problems aren’t big issues for every provider just yet. In fact, according to an analysis by KPMG, only 10% of providers are currently using big data to its fullest potential. The 271 healthcare professionals surveyed by KPMG said that there were several major barriers to leveraging big data in their organization, including having unstandardized data in silos (37%), lacking the right technology infrastructure (17%) and failing to have data and analytics experts on board (15%).  Perhaps due to these roadblocks, a full 21% of healthcare respondents had no data analytics initiatives in place yet, though they were at the planning stages.


Still, it’s good to look at the obstacles health IT departments will face when they do take on more advanced data management and analytics efforts. After all, while ensuring high data and app availability, stocking the IT department with the right skillsets and implementing a wise data management strategy aren’t trivial, they’re doable for CIOs that plan ahead. And it’s not as if health leaders have a choice. Going from maintaining an enterprise data warehouse to leveraging health data analytics may be challenging, but it’s critical to make it happen.

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Solo Practitioners Exempt from EHR Implementation in Minnesota

Solo Practitioners Exempt from EHR Implementation in Minnesota | EHR and Health IT Consulting | Scoop.it

One of the key issues that some healthcare providers have found with the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs is the mere financial impact of EHR implementation. In Minnesota, small medical practices – particularly solo practitioners – will no longer have to invest in costly EHR implementation plans due to a bill that was passed by Minnesota lawmakers in both the House and Senate.


Under the Minnesota Department of Human Services policy omnibus bill, there are various healthcare reform objectives including exempting solo practitioners and cash providers from having to invest in health IT systems and EHR implementation.


While this may benefit these providers financially and allow them to run their practice without monetary disadvantages, paper-based patient records could potentially lead to safety issues and additional medical errors that impact population health outcomes across underserved regions within the state.


Nonetheless, Minnesota seems to be the only state in the nation where an EHR mandate required all healthcare providers and hospitals to install and implement EHR systems by January 1 of this year.

The bill’s amendment on EHR implementation is now in place and providers will have to comply with it starting in January 2015, according to a press release from the Citizen’s Council for Health Freedom (CCHF), a Minnesota-based organization aimed at protecting patient privacy and rights.


CCHF feels the EHR mandate that required all providers to participate in EHR implementation was too costly and had patient privacy implications the organization does not support. Essentially, Minessota was the only state that did not have an opt-out option. Other providers across the country could take the payment penalty hit from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) instead of being required to adopt certified EHR technology.


In particular, providers in Minnesota were required to implement an interoperable EHR system that was connected to a state government-approved Health Information Organization, which is a costly endeavor.

“We’re pleased that lawmakers have included this important amendment in Rep. Tara Mack’s bill that will allow small clinics and practices to continue to serve patients in Minnesota,” stated CCHF president and co-founder Twila Brase. “Many small clinics and practices cannot afford the cost of the EHR system, and many practices do not want to make their patients’ data accessible online.”

“This amended bill will allow small clinics to thrive in smaller communities,” Brase continued. “And it will allow single doctor’s offices to keep their doors open, rather than be forced to join a big practice.


Patients would be able to search for practitioners who hold their medical data truly confidential and for doctors that look them in the eye rather than turning their back on them and typing into a computer. Minnesota is the only state that, until now, did not allow healthcare providers to opt out of expensive, intrusive online-accessible EHRs. The federal HITECH Act mandates EHRs, but allows any provider to opt out. This amendment begins to give Minnesota the level of freedom and privacy available to doctors and patients in the rest of the nation.”


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Did Meaningful Use Requirements Propel Hospital EHR Adoption?

Did Meaningful Use Requirements Propel Hospital EHR Adoption? | EHR and Health IT Consulting | Scoop.it

Ever since 2009 when the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act became law, the majority of healthcare providers began adopting EHR systems and other health IT tools in order to meet the meaningful use requirements under the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentives Programs and avoid the financial penalties set for 2015 and the following years.

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) supported EHR adoption among hospitals and physician practices through a variety of resources and advisories. Recently, ONC released a data brief that outlines the high EHR adoption rates among hospitals and other providers.


The brief outlines the trends in the adoption of EHR technology between the years 2008 to 2014. ONC also tracked the implementation of certified EHR systems that meet meaningful use requirements as well as general health IT systems.


The results show that 76 percent of hospitals have a basic EHR system. This statistic has increased tremendously over the years, rising by 27 percent from 2013. Out of these reported hospitals, 97 percent have adopted certified EHR technology that meets meaningful use requirements under the EHR Incentive Programs.


Hospital EHR adoption varies significantly across states, ranging from 50 percent to 100 percent. Delaware, South Dakota, and Virginia have the highest rates of basic EHR adoption among hospitals. Kansas, West Virginia, and Hawaii were the three states with the lowest adoption rate of basic EHR systems.

State adoption of EHR systems has also risen significantly from 2008 to 2014, the ONC data brief shows. In 2008, only Connecticut and New Mexico had adoption rates of basic EHR systems above 20 percent.


By 2011, this statistic rose and 32 states had a hospital EHR adoption rate above 20 percent while seven states had a rate above 40 percent. By 2014, hospital EHR adoption rates were above 60 percent in 48 states and above 80 percent in 17 of those states. Clearly, these trends are rising significantly to meet meaningful use requirements and prevent the financial penalties under the EHR Incentive Programs.


The use of advanced functionalities within EHR systems is also increasing. For example, many more hospitals are using EHR technology that includes clinician notes. Additionally, 34.4 percent of hospitals have implemented comprehensive EHR systems in 2014.

Essentially, the adoption of EHR systems among acute care hospitals has quickly increased once the HITECH Act was passed in 2009 and providers began pursuing meaningful use requirements. State EHR adoption rates have also steadily increased among hospitals since the legislation was passed.


“A favorite question of mine, asked during the sessions and included in the report, is the following: ‘The real question is not what data we want to collect, but what problem are we trying to solve?’ I believe the real problem we are trying to solve is how to advance the public’s health wherever people live, work, learn or play, using information and data as a tool,” National Coordinator for Health IT Karen B. DeSalvo stated on the ONC website.


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Future of EHRs: Interoperability, Population Health, and the Cloud

Future of EHRs: Interoperability, Population Health, and the Cloud | EHR and Health IT Consulting | Scoop.it

Ever since the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act was passed in 2009 and the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs were established, healthcare providers have been quickly implementing EHR systems and adopting health IT tools. The overall movement toward improved quality of care and greater access to healthcare information will likely stimulate the future of EHRs.


Before predictions regarding the future of EHRs and their designs can be considered, it is critical to examine the history and evolution of EHR technology over the last five decades. The American Medical Association Journal of Ethics discussed how the earliest developments in EHR design took place in the 1960s and 1970s.  Healthcare leaders began forming organizations as early as the 1980s to develop standards for the increased use of EHR systems across the sector.

The very first health IT platforms, developed by Lockheed in the mid-1960s, were called clinical information systems. This particular system has been modified over the years and is now part of Allscripts’ platforms.  The clinical information system was capable of having multiple users on at once due to its high processing speed. During the same period, the University of Utah developed the Health Evaluation through Logical Processing (HELP) system and later Massachusetts General Hospital created the Computer Stored Ambulatory Record (COSTAR).


The COSTAR platform was able to separate key healthcare processes into separate entities such as accounting or billing versus clinical information. The federal government adopted an EHR system in the 1970s through the Department of Veteran Affairs’ Computerized Patient Record System.


Over the last several decades, there have been even more developments in EHR design and implementation, especially since the federal government constructed meaningful use objectives under the EHR Incentive Programs. In 1991, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) published a report analyzing the effects of paper health records and making a case for the use of EHR systems. The report also covered challenges to EHR adoption such as costs, privacy and security concerns, and a lack of national standards.


In 2000, the IOM also published its infamous report To Err is Human in which the high rates of medical errors were discussed and health IT systems were addressed as a potential solution. The history surrounding health IT will likely impact the future of EHRs, as the same principles toward better quality of care, lower costs, and improving patient health outcomes are at the forefront of EHR adoption.

EHRIntelligence.com spoke with three leaders in the healthcare IT industry to discuss the future of EHRs and the trends to expect over the coming years. Bob Robke, Vice President of Interoperability at Cerner Corporation, mentioned the importance of healthcare data sharing across multiple platforms.


“We’re moving out of the era of EHR implementation and adoption and into the era of interoperability,” Robke said. “Now that we’ve automated the health record, the next phase is connecting all of the information in the EHR. We need interoperability and open platforms to accomplish this.”


The functionalities possible in future EHR systems will also focus greatly on interoperability and Big Data. As telehealth functions spread across the country, patient health outside of the medical facility will be greatly considered.


“Interoperability has the potential to unlock a richer set of data that clinicians can use to help improve the care they provide to patients,” Robke explained. “More than ever, clinicians will need access to information about the patient’s care that happens outside of their four walls as healthcare moves from fee-for-service to value-based models.”

When asked what healthcare trends are affecting the design of EHR systems, Robke replied, “There is a lot of exciting work being done to advance open standards that enable information stored in one EHR to be accessed by other systems. A good example of this is the work being driven by the Argonaut Project to advance the development and adoption of the FHIR standard. We’re big supporters of the SMART on FHIR approach that allows information to be accessed from directly within the EHR workflow, and are enabling that within the Cerner EHR.”

Health information exchange and EHR interoperability will continue to impact the future of EHRs over the coming decades, as the healthcare industry continues to strive toward meaningful use of health IT systems. Robke spoke on the benefits of health information exchange and the strategic actions of the Commonwell Health Alliance, which is geared toward nationwide healthcare data exchange.


“Interoperability is a critical next step in the EHR world. Interoperability can provide clinicians with the data they need to manage the health of their populations and truly put the patient at the center of care,” Robke explained. “For interoperability to succeed, it will require all of the different information system suppliers coming together to find ways to connect their platforms, like those vendors who have joined together in the CommonWell Health Alliance. The great thing about CommonWell is vendors representing 70 percent of the acute market share in the U.S. have joined together to make interoperability a reality.”

When discussing how telemedicine and population health measures will affect the future of EHRs and the development of health IT platforms, Robke stated: “Connecting different information sources are key to successful telehealth and population health management strategies. Health care organizations need to access a patient’s full health history regardless of where that care was provided or what information system houses that information.”


“And yet, when it comes to results, there is an alarming failure in the healthcare industry.  Despite huge investments in enterprise systems, venerable healthcare organizations failing even at the basics like exchanging information electronically, communicating amongst care teams, and engaging patients,” Bush elaborated on the topic. “Some are even going bankrupt!  The shortcomings of software – the cost, the inability to share information at scale, the demands for onsite management and maintenance, and the sluggish pace of innovation—are chiefly responsible for this.”


The revenue cycle in the healthcare industry will also have a great impact on the future design of EHR systems and trends within this sector, Bush explained. The costs of investing in complex technologies will affect the future adoption rates while the financial incentives of the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs will also stimulate hospitals and physician practices.


“That’s why I believe that health care leaders are going to start thinking in terms of the total cost of driving results, not the total cost of ownership, when they contemplate the HIT of the future,” Jonathan Bush explained. “It’s crucial in the current landscape to adopt a cost calculation that accounts for labor and operational costs across several departments, as well as the opportunity costs of an underperforming system. As CIOs and health system boards are increasingly held to account for their investment decisions, I think we’ll start to see a new model for total cost of ownership emerge—and a fleet of next-generation services emerge to keep up.”


When asked what functionalities he thinks health IT systems will be able to obtain in the future, Bush replied: “Malleable IT strategies available from the cloud will reinvent what we ever thought HIT was capable of.  I agree with a recent IDC report and its vision for a future filled with ‘3rd Platform EHRs’ capable of functions we just don’t see in software today.”


“Those functionalities would include easy access to data; population-wide analytics; and network intelligence that crowd sources the wisdom of many to improve overall performance,” he continued. “These functionalities are already being built in to service value-based care organizations.  The promise is better healthcare in an accountable care environment.”


Next, the Athenahealth CEO discussed the importance of connectedness and interoperability when it comes to the design of EHR technology and future trends in health IT.


“Connectedness is a huge barrier to humanity in health care, as well as to the design of intelligent IT systems,” Bush said. “Achieving connectedness, or the meaningful use of health IT, isn’t reliant on getting all providers onto one system.”


“I believe that the one-size-fits all mantra is finally waning and that healthcare will continue to demand what I like to think of as the ultimate ‘backbone’ solution: lightweight technology that can unite data across multiple platforms and support advanced levels of care coordination and connectedness. That sort of infrastructure is not only more cost effective, nimble, and future-proof; it’s also best for patient choice and access and — ultimately — quality care.”


Some of the typical trends that are affecting the future of EHR technology include telehealth, population health management, accountable care, and health information exchange. Population health management in particular will affect the development of analytics software and statistical measurements vital for demonstrating healthcare quality improvements.


“The arrival of population health is, and will continue to be, huge. It’s trending in M&A, has wound its ways into vendors’ capability descriptions, and is on the required ‘must support’ list for healthcare organizations of all sizes,” Jonathan Bush explained.


“To do population health correctly, EHRs will need to gain insight into patient populations, translate that insight into meaningful knowledge for care teams, and enable a new standard of connectedness to manage and deliver care. To do such complex, hairy, and crucial processes, EHRs will have to leverage a combination of software, knowledge, and work.  Software alone simply isn’t cut out to do the job.”


EHRIntelligence.com also spoke with Practice Fusion Founder and Chief Executive Officer Ryan Howard about future trends in EHR design. Howard spoke about the importance of data sharing among health IT systems.


“The single biggest trend will be cloud-based EHRs. The biggest single problem in the space is not deployment of EHRs. It is sending data back and forth whether it’s for quality and accountable care or sharing data with a payer or a lab or other doctors,” said Howard. “In every spirit of this, data from EHR needs to be shared with another EHR system.”


“The challenges of that is to install software offsite. Most of the major competitors have enterprise solutions. The data is incredibly difficult to get out. A cloud-based model inherently has an exponential cognitive scale that allows it to do this easily,” Howard explained. “In our case, when we connected to Quest, every doctor on our platform has a connection to Quest now because they’re all the same multi-tenant cloud-based systems. I think the biggest problems in health IT will be solved by simple integration into the cloud.”


Howard was of the same opinion as the other CEOs when it comes to the functionalities EHRs will need in the coming years. Interconnectedness, interoperability, or the efficient sharing of health data between disparate systems will become a necessity in the quest to improve patient care and health outcomes.


“The biggest single thing [that will affect the future of EHRs] is that systems need to seamlessly connect to each other,” the Practice Fusion CEO stated. “Most of the systems are pretty robust, but I think the major cloud-based systems will need to interoperate. I think the major cloud-based vendors in the marketplace will connect and all their doctors will be able to interoperate. I think all the doctors will migrate to cloud-based systems.”


“This is only possible in a web-based or cloud-based model where the population data is in one place,” Howard said. “There’s very little value in doing this in a solution that’s installed in the doctor’s office. In that situation, all the data isn’t in one place and, in a population health management program, you’re constantly rolling out new rules and tackling new chronic conditions.”


When asked what healthcare trends will affect the design of EHR systems, Howard replied: “Population health management in addition to the electronic health records role in enabling telemedicine will all be key in the marketplace. Unless you have the patient’s record which only exists in the EHR, then there will be very little value on the telemedicine platform.”


“However, if I’m using a telemedicine platform that’s connected to the EHR, I have all that data in real-time. Most EHRs that are certified do drug-drug and drug-allergy checking dynamically in the system. That’s a good example of the value that comes from the platform.”


In predicting the coming impacts in EHR developments, Howard said, “cloud-based systems, population health management, private care management, and big data” are the major catalysts in health IT design.

“I think most vendors don’t have a population health management solution. The challenges of that is that population health does not work unless all the data is in one place,” Howard stated. “For population health management to work, take a look at diabetes. What the system is doing in a population health management model is that it is constantly monitoring your patient on a day-to-day basis.”


If a patient hasn’t had a required test done, “the system should automatically be reaching out to that patient to drive awareness – get them to book an appointment – and the system should also be prompting the physician with the standard of care during the visit.”


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New Year Brings New EHR

New Year Brings New EHR | EHR and Health IT Consulting | Scoop.it
Looking forward to a triumphant 2015, Clay County Hospital, located in Ashland, AL has completed its successful implementation of its EHR, Emergency Department Information System (EDIS), with the hospital’s partner, veEDIS Clinical Systems, LLC. Utilized by nurses and physicians to document patient care, veEDIS is a key ingredient in modernizing technology and patient record-keeping, as well as the authorized, confidential exchange of patient information at this facility.

veEDIS is Emergency Department software designed to streamline emergency department management. It combines real emergency department experience with advanced technology to provide software that assists in meeting quality patient care and safety goals.

From a clinical benefits perspective, Clay County Hospital will use veEDIS to deliver innovative solutions to clinical decision-makers through real-time comprehensive nurse and physician documentation. Gathering and delivering patient data quickly and accurately on a web browser, veEDIS provides a cost efficient communication flow that increases Emergency Department efficiency and enhances quality of care and patient safety.

From an executive benefits perspective, Clay County Hospital will use veEDIS to provide real-time information for monitoring and decision making to promote the clinical and financial health of the hospital.

Clay County Hospital, a general medical/surgical acute care hospital with 53 licensed beds, serves Clay County and the surrounding areas. With annual ER visits of 5400, inpatient admissions of 1300, and outpatient visits of 15,600, the hospital provides an array of inpatient, outpatient, and support services and is actively involved in a variety of community health related activities.

The Emergency Department of Clay County Hospital is a Level III – Type Service. Twenty-four hour care is provided to patients ranging from neonate, infant, pediatric, adolescent, adult, and geriatric age groups. There is 24-hour emergency room physician coverage provided by Acute Care Incorporated.

Linda U. Jordan, Administrator at Clay County Hospital commented that “the veEDIS system, created by ER physicians and nurses, allows our ER staff to document patient care more effectively and efficiently. Other hospitals in Alabama and across the nation have found veEDIS to be adaptable to their current methods of patient care and have benefited from using a software system that is more clinical rich than many other systems found in larger facilities.”
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ProModel Analytics Solutions's curator insight, February 6, 2015 8:00 AM

Another EHR system installed.

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Updates for Meaningful Use, Interoperability, Health Reform | EHRintelligence.com

Updates for Meaningful Use, Interoperability, Health Reform | EHRintelligence.com | EHR and Health IT Consulting | Scoop.it

Developments during the last week of January will have a serious effect on the progress of meaningful use, interoperability, and health reform in the coming year.

Perhaps the most important development for health IT was a reduction in meaningful use reporting requirements in 2015. After months of feedback criticizing the meaningful use requiring for reporting in 2015, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) finally decided to opt for a 90-day reporting period rather than one requiring a full year’s worth of EHR data.

In a CMS blog post, Patrick Conway, MD, the Deputy Administrator for Innovation & Quality and CMO, highlighted three meaningful use requirements the federal agency is considering for an upcoming proposed rule.

The first would require eligible hospitals like eligible professionals to report based on the calendar year, which would give these organizations time to implement 2014 Edition certified EHR technology (CEHRT). The second would change “other aspects of the program to match long-term goals, reduce complexity, and lessen providers’ reporting burdens.” Lastly and most importantly, CMS is considering reducing the meaningful use reporting requirement from 365 days to 90 days.

As Conway noted, this proposed rule is separate from the one for Stage 3 Meaningful Use expected next month. However, the spirit of the two proposals is to reduce burdens on providers while promoting expanded use of CEHRT.

Most recently, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology provided its earliest plans for enabling nationwide interoperability. The first draft version of the interoperability is the first iteration of the federal agency’s long-term plans for enabling a health IT ecosystem and infrastructure with the ability to exchange patient health data efficiently and securely.

“To realize better care and the vision of a learning health system, we will work together across the public and private sectors to clearly define standards, motivate their use through clear incentives, and establish trust in the health IT ecosystem through defining the rules of engagement,” National Coordinator Karen DeSalvo, MD, MPH, MSc, said in a public statement.

The lengthy draft comprises both long- and near-term goals for promoting standards-based exchange among healthcare organizations and providers. The document is current open to public comment through the beginning of April.

At a higher level, the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) laid out its plans for shifting healthcare dramatically from volume- to value-based care. Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell has committed Medicare to making half of the program’s reimbursements based on value by 2018. Over the next two years, the department is aiming to shift 30 percent of fee-for-service payments into quality-based reimbursement paid through accountable care organizations (ACOs) or bundled payments.

The challenge for the department and the Medicare program is significant considering that accountable care comprises an estimated 20 percent of total Medicare payments. “We believe these goals can drive transformative change, help us manage and track progress, and create accountability for measurable improvement,” Burwell said.

While all these changes took place within HHS, President Barack Obama and members of Congress began revealing their plans for supporting personalized medicine. The President’s Precision Medicine Initiative is already on the table and offers $215 million to support the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and ONC. Meanwhile, the House Committee on Energy & Commerce is moving forward with the discussion phase of its 21st Century Cures initiative which aims at speeding along patient-centered regulation and supporting medical researchers, clinical data sharing, clinical research, and product regulation.

All in all, the last week of the first month of 2015 may go down in history at a pivotal moment in the real transformation of healthcare in the United States.


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Latest MU Results Offer Something to Ponder

Latest MU Results Offer Something to Ponder | EHR and Health IT Consulting | Scoop.it

When is a surprise not a surprise? That might be a question to ask some of the Doubting Thomases in healthcare and healthcare IT these days. Because, honestly, when the initial meaningful use Stage 2 attestation numbers came out late last fall, the sense of “I told you so” was fairly strong among many in healthcare. As our Senior Editor, David Raths, reported in November, a number of healthcare association leaders noted that the fact that only 840 hospitals had attested to Stage 2 at that point, and many were ready to declare the entire meaningful use process a failure.

And many had very legitimate concerns, given the level of challenges providers have been facing going into and through Stage 2. But I will say that I, for one, had always trusted the industry observers who had expected most attestations to come at the very last moment. And that is exactly what’s happened.

As David Raths reported on Jan. 14, “With one month left in the 2014 reporting period, 77 percent of hospitals eligible to attest to Stage 2 of the meaningful use program have already done so, according to figures presented at the Jan. 13, 2015, HIT Policy Committee meeting.” As he further reported, “Concerns about low attestation rates earlier in 2014 may have been mitigated by two factors, explained Elisabeth Myers from the Office of E-Health Standards and Services at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid. First, most eligible hospitals tend to attest after their fiscal report year closes, and that held true this year… Second is the fact not all hospitals and providers are eligible for Stage 2 in 2014.” And as Paul Tang, M.D., the committee’s co-chair, noted, the phenomenon of hospitals waiting until the end of the fiscal year is tracking with a pattern from previous years.

So the plain fact is that more than three-quarters of the hospitals eligible to attest in 2014 have now done so. And that’s a good thing. Are they facing an uphill battle going into 2015? Absolutely. Will some fail to make it successfully to and through Stage 3? Quite possibly.

But it’s important to consider that, in the context of this arduous journey of meaningful use, this 77 percent statistic is significant, and should not be minimized.

Meanwhile, it is interesting to note that only 200 hospitals will see payment adjustments as of this moment, and the number set to get adjustments of more than $5,000 is going to be quite small.

So as challenging as everything looks right now, there is definitely reason for a very cautious flavor of optimism. While this is no time for early victory laps, perhaps things in MU Land are not as dire as some of the Debbie Downers might have led us to believe, either.

And then of course, Stage 3 is now very much on the horizon. As Jeff Smith of CHIME noted earlier this week, “Stage 3 proposed rules are currently under review at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB)—the last step before being released for public comment.” And, Smith noted, “The Stage 3 Notice for Proposed Rulemaking (PRM) process is the most likely vehicle CMS and the Office of the national Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) could use to make changes that CHIME and other stakeholders have been advocating. This is the best chance,” he added, “to make substantive changes to meaningful use and revive an ailing program.”

So we’ll see what happens. Doubtless, the next several months will be pivotal for the meaningful use program going forward. So stay tuned. And keep your powder dry.


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Amazing Charts Releases 2015 Predictions for Medicine and Technology

Amazing Charts Releases 2015 Predictions for Medicine and Technology | EHR and Health IT Consulting | Scoop.it

Amazing Charts, a leading developer of Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems for physician practices, today issued its healthcare predictions for 2015.

1.      Membership Medicine Comes on Strong: The patient membership approach to medicine will grow in all forms, including value-based Direct Primary Care (DPC), high-end Concierge Medicine, and primary care services contracted directly by employers. Market-driven medicine, fueled by changes occurring in healthcare today, such as inexpensive health plans with very high deductibles, will continue to encourage consumers to explore more cost-effective alternatives for primary care.

2.      Patients Help Define the Experience: The patient, in partnership with the provider, will help define the care experience going forward. This trend will be powered by technologies that enhance face-to-face interaction in the exam room. One example is the projection of an EHR onto a large display screen to facilitate information sharing between provider and patient. This in turn will help reduce errors and misdiagnosis, as well as motivate patients to take a renewed interest in their own healthcare and treatment options.

3.      EHRs Get Personalized: The EHR market will further mature and become customizable for individual patient needs and treatment plans. Intuitive data analytics will play a critical role here, helping clinicians measure, assess and manage their specific patient populations to better define specific gaps in clinical care and introduce the latest evidenced-based treatment procedures or diagnostic techniques.

4.      Wearable Health Devices Empower Patients: Led by FitBit, the market for mobile health monitoring devices saw explosive growth in 2014. Now Apple is entering the scene, and 2015 promises to see even more apps and devices introduced to consumers. How the government regulates these devices may depend on how they are marketed. For example, a glucometer could be unregulated if the intent is for a user to monitor blood sugar levels for better nutrition. If the same glucometer is marketed for monitoring diabetics, however, it may be more strictly regulated as a medical device.

5.      EHR Interoperability Still Around the Corner: While all EHRs will not be able to seamlessly communicate in 2015, the core infrastructure for increased data liquidity will largely be in place. The data standards of the CCDA and its predecessor, the CCD, are increasingly used by EHR vendors. In addition, Meaningful Use Stage 2 mandates that patients can receive a digital summary of their own records on demand. These positive steps forward will combine in 2015 to get us closer to the promise of data interoperability.

6.      EHR Switching Accelerates: Many practices selected an EHR system lured by the promise of Meaningful Use incentives and now find themselves dissatisfied with their decision, primarily because the solution is not user friendly and slows them down. Despite barriers to switching systems, we will witness a mass conversion of solutions toward EHRs that better meet providers’ expectations and requirements.

7.      The Doctor Will NOT Be In: In 2015 and beyond we will see reimbursements drive the “virtual” appointment, whereby health plans will reimburse clinicians for online patient visits. Patients and their providers will connect over virtual platforms for scheduling, reviewing test results, writing prescriptions, etc. As they do, more and more insurers will follow suit as technology advances and claims its place in the doctor’s office.


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Is Physician Fear of ICD-10 Turning Them Off Preparation? | EHRintelligence.com

Is Physician Fear of ICD-10 Turning Them Off Preparation? | EHRintelligence.com | EHR and Health IT Consulting | Scoop.it

There are a lot of reasons for healthcare professionals to dislike the notion of ICD-10.  More mandates, more money, more work, and more complications that do nothing but take highly-trained physicians away from the business of patient care have been repeatedly cited as reasons why the industry should just forget the new code set all together.  But new research from AHIMA shows that frustration, empty pockets, and exhaustion may not be the only things slowing down the ICD-10 adoption process.  Many physicians in a series of focus groups expressed straight-up fear about how the new codes will impact their practices – and even more worryingly, expected their EHR vendors and billing services to do most of the heavy lifting as October 1, 2015 draws near.

“ICD-10 is scary for most people,” one physician admitted during one of the interview sessions.  The large-scale changes required to bring clinical documentation up to the appropriate level of detail and specificity are of great concern to many physicians, not only due to necessary changes in their workflow, but also because of the uncertain impact on their reimbursement.

Physicians may be jittery about the unknowns of the future, but they aren’t necessarily being proactive about addressing them.  Blaming a lack of simple educational tools, comprehensive resources, and specialty-specific guides to clinical documentation improvement (CDI), physicians in the focus groups are generally taking a wait-and-see approach to problems that may arise from documentation issues.  They will address issues as they occur and learn as they go after implementation.  They expect their EHR and billing system vendors to provide them with templates and order sets that will make documentation easier, and tend to think the biggest problems will only hit providers who perform a wide variety of procedures or see very complex patients.

“I have not done anything except read an article or two about how codes are going to increase in ICD-10,” a participant said. “I am relying on my billing service to do that. With respect to the hospital, they have not really given us any formal training for ICD-10 at all.”

“Physicians…typically don’t want to spend very much time on training for things like this,” added another. “It’s hard to engage them, so finding a set of materials that they will respond to positively would be valuable.”  Hiring an HIM or CDI professional to develop educational programs and train physicians on ICD-10 issues seemed an attractive path for some physicians, but others worried that hospitals with the resources to maintain an HIM department may only invest in significant training for inpatient coding, leaving the less lucrative outpatient coding aside.

“Hospital coding is totally depending on ICD-9 and as they convert to 10, they will do the training (for inpatient). But that is inpatient. What about outpatient? The hospital will train you as they have a vested interest. For outpatient, I don’t know,” remarked a participant.

“For surgeons, nothing came from formal groups; most of the information regarding ICD-10 preparation and training would come from the hospital side as they have the best interest in training the physicians mainly for hospital utilization and reimbursement purposes,” agreed another.

Will EHR vendors and billing partners pick up the slack?  Physicians certainly hoped so, believing that vendors would provide training and assistance if their hospitals and specialty associations didn’t give them adequate education.  The groups called ICD-10 a “new language” for them to learn, and put specialty educational materials at the top of their wish lists.  One requested “ICD-10 for dummies dumbed down by specialty,” while others asked for easy-to-understand crosswalks and a top-ten list of the most frequent reasons claims are being rejected.

The problem, many of the responses seem to indicate, is that ICD-10 isn’t meeting physicians where they are.  CDI itself is not the issue, nor is the extra burden of added time and education, even if the thought of spending a few lunch breaks or extra evenings in a specificity seminar isn’t enticing.  ICD-10 has taken on a life of its own as the big bad wolf of the healthcare industry, its shadow of trepidation growing deeper each time the new code set is delayed.  Many physicians want to view the changes as a positive development, but feel that available resources aren’t helping them do so.  “Articles on ICD-10 are fear-based,” said a participant.  “I try not to go there.”

So where will they go?  To health information management professionals, hopefully, or to CDI experts offering outsourcing services or workshop materials that will preempt the watch-and-wait attitude that may result in significant reimbursement disruptions.  It isn’t fear mongering to say that preparing in advance for ICD-10 is a wiser course of action than simply hoping that the storm will pass by without serious damage, or letting fear of the unknown preclude the search for resources that will meet a specialist’s particular needs.  ICD-10 will require effort, but the industry has been preparing for the switch for a long time, and the right training is available to those who look for it.

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Stage 3 Meaningful Use proposals at White House for final review

Stage 3 Meaningful Use proposals at White House for final review | EHR and Health IT Consulting | Scoop.it

Why do these things always seem to happen late on Friday afternoons? At least this time it’s not right before a holiday. Actually, with a bit more inspection, I see that it did happen right before a holiday.

HIMSS is reporting today that the White House’s Office of Management and Budget is “in its final stages of review” of the proposed rules for Stage 3 of the Meaningful Use EHR incentive program. OMB always goes over proposed and final regulations to measure the fiscal — and, presumably, political — impact before allowing executive-branch agencies to make public releases.

A peek at OMB’s reginfo.gov site indicates that the MU Stage 3 proposal from CMS and related ONC plan for certification of EHRs are indeed at OMB for final review.

“We are proposing the Stage 3 criteria that [eligible professionals], eligible hospitals, and [Critical Access Hospitals] must meet in order to successfully demonstrate meaningful use under the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs, focusing on advanced use of EHR technology to promote improved outcomes for patients. Stage 3 will also propose changes to the reporting period, timelines, and structure of the program, including providing a single definition of meaningful use. These changes will provide a flexible, yet, clearer framework to ensure future sustainability of the EHR program and reduce confusion stemming from multiple stage requirements,” CMS states in a rule summary on the OMB site.

A placeholder date (“02/00/2015 “) on the same page suggests that the proposal will be published in February. However, a placeholder date on the page for the forthcoming ONC certification standards indicates that the plan was supposed to come out in November.

And the date the two notices appeared on the reginfo.gov? Dec. 31, when pretty much everyone was already checked out for the extended New Year’s weekend.

Stage 3 is scheduled to start no earlier than Oct. 1, 2016, for hospitals and Jan. 1, 2017, for individual providers.


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Physician Office EHR Adoption Increases, Meaningful Use Lags

Physician Office EHR Adoption Increases, Meaningful Use Lags | EHR and Health IT Consulting | Scoop.it
Physician offices continue to adopt EHR technology so why is meaningful use participation being ignored by these eligible providers?

Physician office EHR adoption continued its upward swing between 2013 and 2014, but less than half of physicians in a recent survey report plans to attest for Stage 2 Meaningful Use.

The last bit of news comes from a survey of nearly 2000 members of SERMO, the online social network for physicians. Frank Irving of Medical Practice Insider reports that 55 percent of respondents will not demonstrate Stage 2 Meaningful Use in 2015, 994 of 1816 to participants.

Eligible professionals have until the end of next month — February 28 — to attest for meaningful use in 2014. According to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), more than 257,000 EPs are receiving 2015 Medicare payment adjustments for failing to demonstrate meaningful use as part of the Medicare EHR Incentive Program prior to 2014. That number is less close to 60,000 EPs who successfully filed for a meaningful use hardship exception during one of the two application periods in 2014. Those failing to demonstrate meaningful use in 2014 will be subject to Medicare payment adjustments in 2016.

It is unclear whether respondents to the SERMO survey are referencing their 2014 meaningful use reporting as the attestation period runs through the end of February 2015 or if they have chosen one of several options in a meaningful use flexibility rule or received a meaningful use hardship exception. That 55 percent could therefore prove misleading.

Continued growth of physician office EHR use

Whatever the reasons behind these responses from SERMO members, physician office EHR adoption is on the rise. An ongoing study by SK&A indicates a ten-percent increase in physician office adoption of EHR technology between 2013 and 2014. What’s more, it provides a breakdown of the top-five EHR vendors nationally and regionally.

At the national level, Epic Systems controls 30 percent of the market followed by eClinicialWorks (22%), Allscripts (19%), Practice Fusion (16%), and NextGen Healthcare (13%).

A closer look by region shows a close competition between Epic Systems and eClinicalWorks for EHR selection by physician offices.

The former dominates the West, Midwest, and East regions of the United States. The latter holds sway in the South and New England regions. Here’s a region-by-region breakdown:

West
Epic (25%)
eCW (23%)
Practice Fusion (20%)
NextGen (17%)
Allscripts (15%)

Midwest
Epic (33%)
Allscripts (24%)
eCW (18%)
Practice Fusion (14%)
NextGen (11%)

South
eCW (30%)
Allscripts (23%)
Practice Fusion (17%)
Epic (16%)
NextGen (14%)

East
Epic (33%)
Allscripts (24%)
eCW (18%)
Practice Fusion (14%)
NextGen (11%)

New England
eCW (31%)
Allscripts (24%)
Practice Fusion (17%)
Epic (16%)
NextGen (14%)

Interestingly, where neither is first both companies drop to the third or fourth spots. Considering that both companies specialize in working with health systems and hospitals, their domination of various markets may indicate the ownership of physician practices and use of that health system’s or hospital’s EHR technology.

Despite the increased implementation and use of EHR technology by physician offices, their physicians have a ways to go in order to keep pace with the evolution of the EHR Incentive Programs.


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OMB Reviewing Proposed Stage 3 Meaningful Use Requirements | EHRintelligence.com

OMB Reviewing Proposed Stage 3 Meaningful Use Requirements | EHRintelligence.com | EHR and Health IT Consulting | Scoop.it

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is one step closer to issuing a notice of proposed rulemaking (NRPM) for the next stage of meaningful use requirements for the Medicare EHR Incentive Program.

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is currently reviewing the proposed rule for Stage 3 Meaningful Use that is expected to be published in February.

Few details about the requirements for Stage 3 appear in the rule submitted to the OMB by the Department of Health & Human Services as part of the Unified Agenda — that is, with the exception of the following:

In this proposed rule, CMS will implement Stage 3, another stage of the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Program as required by ARRA. We are proposing the Stage 3 criteria that EP’s, eligible hospitals, and CAHs must meet in order to successfully demonstrate meaningful use under the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs, focusing on advanced use of EHR technology to promote improved outcomes for patients.  Stage 3 will also propose changes to the reporting period, timelines, and structure of the program, including providing a single definition of meaningful use. These changes will provide a flexible, yet, clearer framework to ensure future sustainability of the EHR program and reduce confusion stemming from multiple stage requirements.

The rule before the OMG also indicates that CMS will coordinate with the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology to ensure that EHR certification criteria and certified EHR technology will be in place when Stage 3 goes into effect no earlier than 2017.

During a Health IT Policy Committee meeting in March, the group voted to approve 19 objectives recommended by the Meaningful Use Workgroup. Those recommendations fall into four categories of care improvements:

Improving Quality of Care and Safety
1. Clinical decision support
2. Order tracking
3. Demographics/patient information
4. Care planning — advance directive
5. Electronic notes
6. Hospital labs
7. Unique device identifiers

Engaging Patients and Families in their Care
8. View, download, transmit
9. Patient generated health data
10. Secure messaging
11. Visit Summary/clinical summary
12. Patient education

Improving Care Coordination
13. Summary of care at transitions
14. Notifications
15. Medication reconciliation

Improving Population and Public Health
16. Immunization history
17. Registries
18. Electronic lab reporting
19. Syndromic surveillance

Before any of the proposed rule’s requirements for Stage 3 Meaningful Use are enacted, the NPRM must made available for public comment which has the potential to influence the requirements of the final rule. Given the resistance CMS has faced as a result of Stage 2 Meaningful Use, the federal agency is likely to receive requests for greater flexibility and timing from healthcare organizations and industry groups.


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How Innovative EHR Use Supports Care Quality Improvements | EHRintelligence.com

How Innovative EHR Use Supports Care Quality Improvements | EHRintelligence.com | EHR and Health IT Consulting | Scoop.it

Care quality improvements through innovative EHR use are front and center at University of Missouri (MU) Health Care. Over the past few years, the organization has climbed the rankings awarded by the University HealthSystem Consortium (UHC) and now is one of a dozen academic medical centers to receive a Quality Leadership Award in 2014.

According to the head of the organization, MU Health Care owes much of its progress to its work through Tiger Institute for Health Innovation, a private/public partnership between the University of Missouri and Cerner Corporation.

“So much of the EMR is documentation, patient safety, etc., so our ranking and technology use are closely related and correlated,” MU Health Care CEO & COO Mitch Wasden, EdD, tells EHRIntelligence.com. “Three years ago we were 56 out of 141 academic medical centers, last year we were 27th, and this year were 9th.”

Several years ago, MU Health Care took a risk, albeit a calculated one (given the nature of the Tiger Institute), in choosing to outsource their health IT services to Cerner, but it has quickly paid dividends.

“As a vendor, they know the development pipeline — they know what products they’re making that are going to dovetail nicely with other products — so when we talk about what we want to do strategically with IT, they know exactly what the timelines are and how it can happen,” Wasden explains. “In my prior life, I have been in organizations that had their own IT shops. I also have been in organizations that did outsource IT and it was a disaster.”

A major benefit of the partnership is the ability of MU Health Care to shift its workload from supporting EHR and health IT systems to developing innovative ideas for improving the use of these technologies.

“When you bring up ideas with Cerner, they’re thinking about the value to all their clients. They see it more as an opportunity, a living lab, they can glean ideas from. From an innovation standpoint, I have seen that the uptake on ideas is much quicker,” Wasden says.

As a result of this freedom to innovative, MU Health Care has created the Plan, Do, Study, Act (PDSA) Model that challenges members of the organization to come up with quality improvement initiatives as a means of addressing each of those categories that gained the recognition of the likes of UHC.

As Wasden reveals, each of the 5,500 employees at MU Health Care are required to participate in two quality improvement projects annually — a bottom-up approach. “Healthcare is changing so fast that we need people on the frontlines thinking about how to change workflows because senior management is not close enough to it. We’re not going to have all the answers,” he adds.

To support the program, MU Health Care set out to create a database uniquely designed to log and track the progress of these quality improvement projects over a period of three years. The first two years aimed to support the logging of these projects and their completion. The third year brought with it a dozen or more metrics for quantifying the effectiveness of all this work.

“We don’t want to just have activity; we want to have results. That’s our development plan so that we can start quantifying in total what the impact is,” Wasden maintains.

Next wave of care quality improvements

Moving forward, Wasden sees innovation focuses on three closely related areas all centered on patient engagement. For his part, Wasden has been an outspoken advocate of the patient portal as key player in aggregating patient health information. It is no surprise then that MU Health Care is putting all of its eggs in that basket.

“We have been pretty aggressive about patient portal. In the future it’s about migrating it to be more of a mobile platform. Today, we’re one of a few organizations where you can go on to hundreds of doctors’ schedules and book your appointment without any permission from the clinic,” Wasden reveals.

MU Health Care is preparing to expand those scheduling options to include electronic visits, either real-time videoconferencing with clinicians or asynchronous texting visits. Currently, the $40 service is in its pilot stage in three offices.

The next thing we’re going to allow you to do is book electronic visits — video or asynchronous texting visits — for $40. We’ve built it and are actually piloting it in three doctors’ offices.

Additionally, making the patient portal more robust will soon include giving patients access to registry data in order to view the status of their medical conditions. But the most significant addition to the patient portal is likely to be the use of a patient-facing dashboard for patients to see procedures based on their age, sex, and medical condition that they should complete in a given time period.

“In healthcare based on your age, sex, and medical condition, there are probably five or six things every year you should have done, but you’re just not tracking it,” Wasden explains. “We’re taking your age, sex, and medical condition and pushing to the portal the things you need to have done this year and click here to schedule. Now we’re showing to the patient the value of integrated medical care.”

Integration is the impetus behind the expansion of the patient portal at MU Health Care, a solution to fragmentation in care delivery. The organization is banking on getting patients signed up for and using the patient portal and aggregating disparate health data in one place. “When you look at this age of biometric data, we really think that your portal is going to become the aggregator,” says Wasden.


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4 Stumbling Blocks to Avoid in System Implementation

4 Stumbling Blocks to Avoid in System Implementation | EHR and Health IT Consulting | Scoop.it

Every organization, at one time or another, goes through some type of system upgrade or implementation. Common practice is to develop a very detailed project plan. These documents are laid out to ensure that all tasks are performed and that all deadlines are met. Meetings are scheduled, milestones are agreed upon, and staff are informed of what to expect. Unfortunately what may look like a well thought out plan on paper may not address the day-to-day issues that can often disrupt a thoughtful plan.


So how do you prevent this kind of interruption? It is good practice to think about possible stumbling blocks that can cause employee angst, reworking of project plans, and/or potential deadline delays. Take a look at the following potential road blocks and how to prevent them.


Potential stumbling blocks:


  • Calendar disruptors – Consider outside elements that may cause changes to the calendar. For example, are there holidays which need to be taken into account during the timeline development? A long three day weekend, like Memorial Day, typically means a reduced staff for testing and training. In the northeast, is it wise to plan for a winter go-live? In Florida, which of the months could impact a successful project during hurricane season? Weather conditions can have the potential to wreak havoc on a well thought out project plan.
  • Business office constraints – Take a look at potential business office constraints. If the expectation is to have business office staff training during month end close it is unlikely that those training sessions will be well attended. Are there any other upgrades or implementations that may be going on at the same time? If so, there may be a limited resource pool to pull from. Keep in mind that employees may already be concerned if they are currently spread too thin.
  • Training and testing limitations – Depending on the size of the office that is scheduled to attend training or provide testing assistance take all schedules and workloads into consideration. If it is a small office, where each provider has a heavy schedule, how likely will it be that staff can attend training classes or testing assistance while ensuring that patient care is not being compromised? Look at additional resources or supplemental staff to fill in so staff can leave the office and attend training sessions.
  • Inadequate go-live support – Another component worthy of evaluation and consideration is go-live support. Most organizations incorporate a “help line” to aid the staff after a go-live. But what happens to that large practice that has a long line of patients, phones ringing, providers requiring attention, and employee anxiety? There needs to be a plan in place to circle back with those practices and make sure they are getting the necessary support.


To ensure your system implementation goes smoothly, consider the following steps:


  • Develop a well thought out project plan.
  • Make sure the objectives are clear.
  • Coordinate training schedule with business office needs.
  • Allocate resources and back-up plans early in the planning process.
  • Provide consistent and clear communication.


It is important to understand that little changes may impact well intentioned go-live of a system implementation. A well thought out project plan that accounts for these stumbling blocks and has contingencies built in will help to ensure a successful go-live. You can then focus on ensuring employee and patient satisfaction, which helps everyone in the long run.

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Do Health IT Systems Need Greater Interoperability?

Do Health IT Systems Need Greater Interoperability? | EHR and Health IT Consulting | Scoop.it

The medical sector is aimed at reaching the triple aim of healthcare by incorporating health IT systems and EHR technology. The triple aim focuses on improving patient care, lowering medical costs, and boosting population health outcomes.


In a Health Affairs Blog, National Coordinator for Health IT Karen B. DeSalvo discusses the landscape of information technology in the medical space.  DeSalvo emphasizes the need for interoperability among health IT systems and mentioned how the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) is developing new implementation standards. Additionally, the need for privacy and security of patient data is also asserted by DeSalvo.


The sharing of patient data through health IT systems has been a major focus for the healthcare industry over the last year. To improve EHR interoperability, ONC has listened to the health IT community to develop a roadmap for establishing strategies and opportunities to move the country toward greater health data exchange.


DeSalvo has participated in many listening sessions across the country and learned about certain issues that harm the interoperability of health IT systems and plague hospitals and providers. Rural communities in Alabama, for instance, do not have full broadband access while bordering state privacy laws in New Jersey block medical data exchange. The overall essence of DeSalvo’s discussion revolves around the importance of interoperability among health IT systems.


“I also listened to my own experiences — as a doctor, as a daughter, and as a consumer,” DeSalvo stated. “I thought of countless patients whom I have seen and those I continue to see when I am in clinic. Of visits where I did not have the information needed to make a decision that day, requiring patients to return and miss work, school, or other obligations. Of patients who want to engage and feel empowered but need not only data, but information, to help them level the playing field, to allow them to meaningfully engage.”


“Of being a caregiver for a mother dying of dementia and being frustrated at just how hard it was to get access to the information I needed to help her. And, as a public health advocate and official, needing information about my community to prioritize resources to help them address the broad determinants of health,” said DeSalvo.

Over the last six years since the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act was passed, the healthcare industry has gone forward with meeting many of the goals ONC established such as widespread implementation of EHRs and health IT systems. More and more eligible providers began meeting meaningful use requirements under the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs.


While these achievements are impressive, DeSalvo mentions the need to digitalize “the care experience across the entire care continuum” and gain “true interoperability.” ONC is currently working on a plan for both public and private sectors to gain interoperability. The next step for ONC and the healthcare industry is to go beyond meaningful use and EHR implementation in order to truly bring better health for patients across the country.


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Important Features For Your Practice Computers

Important Features For Your Practice Computers | EHR and Health IT Consulting | Scoop.it

Medical computers are an essential element of the modern health care system. They help increase efficiency in every setting from the front office to exam rooms, surgery, and radiology departments. Choosing computers for your practice is an important task, so here are some features to look for:


Sanitation Promoting Features


A clean environment is indisputable in health care facilities, and a critical component of a medical grade computer is their ability to support one. Hygiene-promoting features on your practice computers should include the following:


  • Sealed enclosure resistant to liquid and can be cleaned with disinfectant.
  • Antimicrobial coating on keyboards and monitors or all-in-one computers.
  • Fanless design to reduce dirt accumulation in the system and dust from circulating.
  • Minimal crevices that are potential homes for bacteria.


Mobility and Accessibility


When medical computers are mobile and accessible, health care organizations can save time, money and improve patient care. Nurses and doctors can bring computers with them on patient rounds or during check-in. This accessibility in medical computers lets doctors and nurses focus on patients, not hardware, during appointments. Look for computers that fit into a variety of settings, whether they can be placed on wall mounts, medical carts or nursing stations. VESA mountable computers are the preferred industry standard. The medical computer supplier you choose should offer assistance in installing your computers where you need them. Also, check for an internal lithium battery that allows for mobility without interrupting data management.

Touchscreens are another significant option that lets caregivers focus on patients. When they are easy to use, caregivers can easily enter data and interact with the computer, while still giving attention to patients. Medical Computer touchscreens are also more hygienic since they can come with an antibacterial coating.


Administrative Tools


A high performing and efficient hospital or clinic has central coordination, and medical grade computers reinforce this. With medical grade computers, administrative staff can enter and edit a patient’s medical, insurance and billing information in a patient environment. Each computer on the network should have access to this information, with a setup that allows for HIPAA compliance. Elimination of redundant inputs, reduction of errors and the switch to electronic rather than paper billings all save costs.


Low-Cost Installation


While changing to a medical computer system or getting an overhaul of your current system will undoubtedly involve some expense, you can minimize it in a few ways. One is by choosing a system compatible with as much of your existing systems as possible. For example, inquire about the extent of inputs and outputs that would be necessary with a new system; you may be able to make use of parts of your current system and thus save trouble and money from redundant equipment purchases.


Another way to reduce the initial investment cost is to consider the time and resources required to get doctors and other employees able to operate the system. First, software should be easy to use. Look for medical grade computers that support your preferred software programs or that come with new software that is simple to learn. Insist on getting a free trial before committing to a purchase.

Second, be sure to train employees before your upgrade is complete. Extra time from tutorials is expensive to a hospital or clinic, so find out how long it typically takes for users to master the system. If possible, purchase your medical computers from a company that provides follow-up support..


Cloud-Based Systems


Your practice computers need to be compatible with the cloud. As recently explained on this site, 96 percent of health care organizations are using or considering the cloud. Those who do can hope for average cost savings of 20 percent each year.


Using the cloud has additional advantages over cost savings. It allows for unlimited storage and frequent backups. Also, storage on a remote server rather than a large server on site prevents the risk of losing data in case of a flood, fire, etc. Check for a computer with EN/UL 60601 medical certification with which protects against power surges, failures and improves on-site safety.


A quality medical grade computer has a number of important characteristics that allow for reduced costs and upgraded patient care. Keep a list of necessary features in mind when you shop for your new computer or system, and your health care organization may soon see benefits.


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What Has Hindered Progress toward EHR Interoperability?

What Has Hindered Progress toward EHR Interoperability? | EHR and Health IT Consulting | Scoop.it

EHR interoperability and the many forces working to promote interoperability of healthcare information are receiving a lot of attention these days. As well it should be!


It has been more than ten years since the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) under the leadership of our first National Coordinator David Brailer, MD, published a seemingly straightforward four-step plan: implement EHRs, connect clinicians — remember regional health information organization (RHIOs)? — bring patients online, and enable population health.


Ten years and $30 billion of taxpayer funding later, we can report immense progress in EHR adoption, yet we are miles away from the ability to fluidly share patient records among providers and a partisan Congress wants to know the reasons. The $2 billion invested in health information exchange (HIE) startup grants has yielded very mixed results, with sustainable HIEs operational in few communities.

Many reasons can be cited for the limited progress — this list is not exhaustive.


For all the latest on interoperability in the healthcare inudstry, visit our new online publication HealthITInteroperability.com.

It isn’t that easy! The frequent comparison of healthcare information exchange to the ATM network greatly oversimplifies our challenge. Healthcare is a far more complex data model, and provider organizations vary widely across the country.


Stages 1 and Stage 2 Meaningful Use regulations include only limited interoperability goals. Hospitals and eligible providers attesting to meaningful use achieved those targets. Six years into the program most of the incentive funds have been received, only limited penalties remaining to further incent providers. Providers will surely weigh those penalties against the cost of Stage 3 Meaningful Use compliance.

Many of today’s standards are imprecisely defined, leaving room for flexibility in their interpretation by technology vendors and provider organizations. This has accommodated the structural differences among EHR products as well as the variation within and between provider organizations while leaving apples-to-apples comparisons across organizations difficult. The Continuity of Care Document (CCD) and the Consolidate CDA (C-CDA) standards in use for exchange across organizations are insufficiently granular to enable vendors to populate the EHR for convenient access and use by physicians.


Congressional restriction on exploring unique patient identifiers leaves us with various matching algorithms to identify and combine patient records across organizations. The best routines, including reconciliation by staff, are claimed to yield a 98-99% accuracy rate. Some organizations report mismatches in excess of 10%. Every mismatch becomes a patient safety issue, with either missing patient information or information incorrectly combined.


Organizations like HL7 and the Argonaut Project continue to advance the art and science of interoperability standards. CHIME recently announced a $1 million HeroX National Patient ID Challenge for the perfect patient matching solution. Both are essential to providing our physicians the information necessary for the best care they can give to their patients.

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83% of Physicians Are Resistant to Use EHRs for Clinical Communications

83% of Physicians Are Resistant to Use EHRs for Clinical Communications | EHR and Health IT Consulting | Scoop.it

83 percent of physicians expressed frustration using EHRs to support clinical communications due to poor EHR interoperability, limited EHR messaging capabilities and poor usability that makes it difficult to find relevant clinical data, according to a recent study by Spyglass Consulting Group. The report entitled Point of Care Communications for Physicians 2014 based on 100 doctors working in hospital‐based and ambulatory environments nationwide reveals physicians are universally (96 percent) using smartphones as their primary device to support clinical communications.
Physicians Face Obstacles to Support Collaborative Care

Despite the universal smartphone adoption, the report finds 70 percent of physicians believe hospital IT organizations are making inadequate investments to address physician mobile computing and communication requirements at point of care due to limited planned investments, poor mobile EHR tools, and inadequate mobile user support. Majority of physicians interviewed report that they lacked the financial incentives, tools, and processes to support collaborative team‐based care. According to the Ponemon Institute, inefficient communications during critical clinical workflows costs the average U.S. hospital approximately $1.75 million annually.
Former CMIO Shares His Experiences

Steven Davidson, MD, MBA former CMIO at Maimonides Medical Center, Brooklyn, NY whose last project at Maimonides improving physician communication comments, “As we were developing our plans for improving communication among clinicians, we discovered that few hospitals were investing in communication‐driven workflow support, perhaps because meaningful use and HIPAA are consuming all the resources. Still, it seems many IT leaders hope the EHR‐‐a tool poorly suited to the task‐‐will suffice. In reality, overwhelmed nurses and doctors struggle accomplishing necessary communication through the EHR; instead implementing workarounds on their own devices.”

Next Generation Communications

The report states that hospital IT has an imperative need to evaluate mobile devices and unified communications solutions to support collaborative team-based care and address regulatory requirements introduced by the Affordable Care Act including readmissions penalties, patient centered care models, and pay for performance. Spyglass notes that the next generation communications solutions must be secure, easy-to-use, and tightly integrated with the EHR to provide adequate clinical context to successfully close the communications loop with colleagues and team members.

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Mayo taps Epic for EHR, revenue cycle management

Mayo taps Epic for EHR, revenue cycle management | EHR and Health IT Consulting | Scoop.it
Dive Brief:
  • Mayo Clinic announced this week that it would be abandoning its three current EHR systems in favor of a new contract with EHR giant Epic, which will now be the healthcare icon's sole EHR provider and strategic partner, according to a Mayo press release.
  • The plan is to deploy a single, integrated Epic EHR and revenue cycle management system at Mayo's main campus. Jilted in the deal are GE and Cerner, who were the providers of Mayo's current systems.
  • "With our staff working together on a common system, we will be able to accelerate innovation, enhance services and provide a better experience for our patients," said Dawn Milliner, MD, Mayo's chief medical information officer, in the release. The current schedule will see the project team assembled by  April of this year, with the actual system being built between then and 2016, and a final implementation target of 2017.
Dive Insight:

If this were any other press release from almost any other provider and vendor, it would not be news. But the words "Mayo" and "Epic" make this an important milestone in an incredibly competitive race.

First, it's a game changer for the Mayo Clinic, as it will completely overhaul its existing system from scratch. Moreover, it's a bodyblow to Cerner, who we predicted had a good shot at swiping the top spot in the EHR biz from Epic earlier this year. We'll be the first to admit this is a big win for Epic, and while it's not big enough to put Cerner down for the count, it's a good way for Epic to start the year (and not so good for Cerner).


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HIMSS Analytics Announces eClinicalWorks as Certified Educator of the EMR Adoption Model

HIMSS Analytics Announces eClinicalWorks as Certified Educator of the EMR Adoption Model | EHR and Health IT Consulting | Scoop.it

EMRAM is an eight-step process that allows healthcare provider organizations to analyze their level of EMR adoption, chart accomplishments, and benchmark progress against other healthcare organizations across the country. Each of the stages is measured by cumulative capabilities and all capabilities within each stage must be reached before progressing.

“We’re happy to be able to confirm eClinicalWorks as an EMRAM Certified Educator,” said Blain Newton, COO, HIMSS Analytics. “EMRAM allows organizations to align IT initiatives and overall business strategy, which is essential to shaping future direction and moving the industry forward.”

Vendors achieving HIMSS Analytics Certified Educator status must pass an annual certification exam and commit to an annual educator program. This ensures they stay current with trends within the model and are equipped with the necessary knowledge to help their clients advance through the various stages.


“A major goal is having our customers utilizing the EMR the most beneficial way possible for both providers and patients,” said Girish Navani, CEO and co-founder of eClinicalWorks. “This certification will benefit organizations looking to analyze their adoption of EMR technology. We welcome being part of the program.”


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Many Say Meaningful Use Stage 2 Is Disastrous, but the Data Say Otherwise

Many Say Meaningful Use Stage 2 Is Disastrous, but the Data Say Otherwise | EHR and Health IT Consulting | Scoop.it

The industry news is full of disparaging talk about the health of the EHR Incentive Programs (i.e., meaningful use), particularly the low number of Stage 2 attestations. While some statistics show that only 35% of the nation’s hospitals have met Stage 2 meaningful use requirements, further analysis reveals a different story.

Each month since July 2014, CMS and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT update the Health IT Policy Committee on the number of successful Stage 2 attestations. The following day, the same headlines appear with multiple industry analyses and strong reactions that take the low attestation volume as a sign of failing long-term meaningful use viability. These critics say that in November 2014, only 17% of the nation’s hospitals successfully demonstrated Stage 2, and most recently that in December 2014 that figure was 35%.

These numbers are being used to demonstrate how difficult it is for the majority of the hospitals to meet Stage 2 requirements and even to make the case that most will not be capable of attesting due to overly stringent requirements. While these numbers are not technically wrong, a closer look reveals a different picture. This is not an attempt to be provocative, but rather we want to provide additional detail to those figures because they do not tell the whole truth about how well hospitals have fared in Stage 2.

Stage 2 Attestation Numbers Send Mixed Messages
First, the numbers cited were correct when the number of Stage 2 attestations were compared with the entire population of U.S. eligible hospitals (EHs). Of course, based on such data, it looks as if only about a third of the hospitals have been able to meet Stage 2 requirements through the end of November 2014. Some have interpreted this number to mean that meaningful use Stage 2 is a disastrous program, but the industry should not use these numbers to judge the success of Stage 2, or in fact, hospitals’ ability to meet the requirements. Why?

The EHs participating in the EHR Incentive Program are required to progress through a set meaningful use timeline. This means every meaningful use participant is scheduled to start at Stage 1 and remain in each stage for two years before moving to the next stage, unless the policy allows otherwise. For example, the early adopters who began in 2011 were in Stage 1 for three years instead of two, as CMS moved the Stage 2 start year to 2014. Therefore, not every EH in the nation is scheduled to attest to Stage 2 in 2014. Even if they wanted to attest to Stage 2, they would not be able to do so.

Instead, the industry should look at how many EHs are scheduled to be in Stage 2 in 2014, rather than looking at all EHs. Per the CMS data:

  • 809 hospitals attested to Stage 1 Year 1 in 2011;
  • 1,754 hospitals attested in 2012;
  • 1,389 attested in 2013; and
  • 83 attested in 2014 by Sept. 30.

Thus, only 2,563 hospitals (i.e., those that started in 2011 or 2012, or 809 + 1754) were scheduled to demonstrate Stage 2 in 2014. Among these hospitals, 65.58% (1,681) of EHs successfully attested to Stage 2 by Dec. 1, 2014. It is this number that tells an accurate story of Stage 2’s viability so far.

Admittedly, CMS only includes Medicare-only or dually-eligible EHs in the database cited above, and CMS did not clearly indicate whether 1,681 include all types of EHs. However, the number of Medicaid-only EHs account for a small proportion here. Based on CMS’ October 2014 report, fewer than 100 Medicaid-only EHs should be in Stage 2 in 2014. Even if we added 100 to the calculation to account for Medicaid-only EHs, the percentage would still be at more than 63%.

Attestations Are on the Rise
In addition, the number of successful Stage 2 attestations has grown exponentially since CMS first announced that 10 hospitals attested to Stage 2 by July 1, 2014. We find many organizations wait until the final 30 days or even closer to the attestation deadline to attest, so it is no surprise to see such growth — especially in the last few months when the number doubled between Nov. 1, 2014, and Dec. 1, 2014.

Additionally, the majority of EHs had to wait until Oct. 1 if they chose the last fiscal quarter, as is likely the case for the majority of attestations. This approach was popular because it gave these organizations the first three quarters of the fiscal year to implement the 2014 Edition CEHRT and to make the required workflow adjustments. So the nearly-66% of successful Stage 2 EHs attestation will only rise from here, especially considering the fact that CMS has extended the hospital attestation deadline to Dec. 31.

Where Hospitals Stand at the End of 2014
The College of Healthcare Information Management Executives recently estimated that about one-third of the hospitals scheduled to attest to Stage 2 in 2014 will use the flexibility rule, which allows them to attest to Stage 1 requirements in 2014 if their certified EHR upgrade was delayed or unable to be implemented at all. If we combine the numbers of those who successfully attested to Stage 2 and those who will rely on the flexibility rule, more than 95% of hospitals are able to attest in 2014. Again, that percentage does not look like a disaster; it shows that the tremendous efforts these hospitals put toward readying themselves for Stage 2 in 2014 paid off for more than half, and CMS’ lifeline worked.

Taking the same approach for eligible professionals (EPs), 57,595 and 139,299 of Medicare EPs attested to Stage 1 Year 1 in 2011 and 2012, respectively. This means 196,894 EPs are supposed to be in Stage 2 in 2014. Per CMS data, 16,455 EPs successfully attested to Stage 2 by Dec. 1, 2014, which accounts for an 8.36% success rate for that group. Of course, the number appears low at this juncture. However, based on the trend for EHs, we expect the numbers to grow tremendously as the majority of the EPs would also rely on the last calendar quarter as their reporting period (Oct. 1, 2014, to Dec. 31, 2014), and EPs can complete their 2014 attestation within the first two months in 2015. In short, it is too early to draw conclusions regarding EP attestations. The real story still remains to unfold for the EP Stage 2 attestation.

Many have touted the misleading data and message that meaningful use is a failure as a reason to push CMS to reduce the reporting period in 2015 from one full year to one three-month quarter or 90 days. We agree with the many benefits that a shortened reporting period in 2015 would provide, and we offer an alternate rationale based on our analysis of the data.

First, so far, about two-thirds of EHs that are scheduled to be in Stage 2 in 2014 have successfully met the requirements. Based on research conducted among our members, we found that the shortened reporting period in 2014 played a critical role in their success. They would not have been able to attest or found it to be significantly challenging if any longer than a three-month quarter reporting period were imposed in 2014. This is because they would not have sufficient time to completely implement and stabilize the 2014 Edition CEHRT and to adjust existing or implement new workflows. In addition, the longer reporting period would equate a higher denominator, making it more difficult or nearly impossible for the providers to achieve the required threshold.

Stage 2 also introduced more complex objectives such as View, Download and Transmit, and Transitions of Care. These two objectives alone required many hospitals to deploy their IT capabilities in new territories of patient engagement and information exchange. As we’ve previously discussed, these two objectives are arguably the most challenging in Stage 2, and the majority of providers who attested showed marginal performance around the required thresholds. These two objectives are significant first steps toward something greater in health care, and it will take time to improve performance in these areas. CMS recognized these challenges and enacted the flexibility rule in 2014. It certainly would not hurt the forward momentum of the meaningful use programs to allow such an option in 2015.

Second, the meaningful use program is not just about what providers can or should do. It is about all of us. We all need to keep in mind that the ultimate goal of the meaningful use program is to promote better care and better health for consumers/patients, including ourselves.

Per a recent report, patients value providers’ use of EHRs, appreciate the ability to access their data in a timely manner and seek even more robust functionalities in EHRs. So far, one of the great accomplishments of the meaningful use program is the significant growth of EHR adoption among providers. This leads to higher recognition of its values among consumers. The meaningful use program should continue, but at a more measured pace, so we all can achieve the goal with little to no compromises.

We hope that these numbers and rationales provide a meaningful perspective as CMS and ONC continue to make data-driven decisions in setting the policy in 2015 and Stage 3. We think that when one asks for leniency, showing great results so far and good faith based on accurate data would trump defensive arguments.

Nevertheless, while there is no further change in the existing policy, providers should continue to keep up their efforts and push to achieve the higher goal of better care and better health.


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Muli-Billion Dollar DoD EHR Contract Promises Exciting Times in 2015

Muli-Billion Dollar DoD EHR Contract Promises Exciting Times in 2015 | EHR and Health IT Consulting | Scoop.it

This summer the DOD is set to award the multi billion dollar electronic health records contract. Each group that bid on it contains at least one company the provides product and one with heavy weight Gov’t/DOD presence.

Who is going to win? Who is in real trouble if they don’t? As far as the winner is concerned, my new, Christmas gift , Crystal Ball doesn’t have this level of experience yet. What I do know is that who the actual winner is will affect the entire Healthcare IT marketplace.

Of the bidders, there are a few companies “betting the farm” on winning this. More later on who, but they could be in serious trouble if they are not the winners.

The contract is scheduled to be awarded in early July. I’m sure there will be protests and pressure from the losers, so the contract’s full impact might be delayed briefly.

When all this is sorted out the need for qualified people to work on the project is going to be huge and securing a position there will be considered a prize for many because the contract itself is going to last for at least 8 years.

Basically this means that if you are looking for a position, there are going to be a huge amount of health IT job opportunities available. As professionals move to the DOD contract, most will need previous experience. Where are they going to come from? These experienced professional departures will create job opportunities when they leave.

For employers, you might want to look into your employee retention efforts. Some companies out there are going to have a major problem with retention. You may be putting out fires all summer long as the experienced health IT marketplace shifts.


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AMA Lists EHRs, Meaningful Use, ICD-10 as Top 2015 Challenges

AMA Lists EHRs, Meaningful Use, ICD-10 as Top 2015 Challenges | EHR and Health IT Consulting | Scoop.it

The New Year’s celebrations may be dying down this week as the healthcare industry gets back to work, but the American Medical Association (AMA) wants providers to keep a watchful eye on ten major challenges that they will face during the year ahead.  From ICD-10 to meaningful use to improving population health management and chronic disease care, the AMA list highlights some common complaints.

At the top of the list is a familiar refrain: the ongoing burden of regulatory initiatives such as meaningful use that have frustrated physicians for years.  The AMA has long advocated for changes to the program, and plans to “intensify” its efforts to push CMS towards greater flexibility for the program, especially after more than 50% of providers were notified that they will be receiving Medicare payment adjustments in 2015.

The overly-strict requirements of the EHR Incentive Programs “are hindering participation in the program, forcing physicians to purchase expensive electronic health records with poor usability that disrupts workflow, creates significant frustrations and interferes with patient care, and imposes an administrative burden,” AMA President Elect Steven J. Stack, MD said in a statement.

Coupled with meaningful use is the AMA’s other nemesis – ICD-10.   While the organization has tried everything from a Twitter rally to Congressional letters to industry appeals in order to continue delaying the code set indefinitely, the new list of challenges takes a bit of a different tack.  Instead of reiterating the AMA’s opposition to the codes, the list simply says that the AMA “has advocated for end-to-end testing, which will take place between January and March and should provide insight on potential disruptions from ICD-10 implementation, currently scheduled for Oct. 1.”

“Given the potential that policymakers may not approve further delays, ICD-10 resources can help physician practices ensure they are prepared for implementation of the new code set,” the section continues, which is some of the mildest language the AMA has used about the ICD-10 transition for some time.

Is there a little hint of resignation to defeat now that Congress itself has backed the 2015 implementation date, or will the AMA continue its lengthy fight until the very end?  The degree to which the AMA pushes resistance instead of readiness over the next few months may impact how many providers are prepared for the deadline and how many continue to pin their hopes on a postponement.

Other items on the list that will impact physicians in 2015 include the rampant abuse of prescription medications, the spread of diabetes and heart disease, and the need to adequately modernize medical education and the AMA’s Code of Medical Ethics.

The list also highlights the need to continue medical research and the sharing of clinical knowledge, to which end the AMA is launching JAMA Oncology, a new journal in its network of publications.  Physician satisfaction and the financial sustainability of medical practices is also on the AMA’s mind as it beta tests professional tools to help physicians chart a profitable course for the future.

To round out the top ten issues for the healthcare industry in the coming year, the AMA includes the need for reform to the Medicare physician payment system after the latest temporary Congressional SGR fix in April, the need to ensure adequate provider networks for patient care, and upcoming judicial rulings on healthcare-related issues such as liability, patient privacy, and the regulation of practices by state licensure boards.


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HHS calls Stage 3 rule 'flexible, clearer framework' | Healthcare IT News

HHS calls Stage 3 rule 'flexible, clearer framework' | Healthcare IT News | EHR and Health IT Consulting | Scoop.it

It's more of a requisite first step than milestone, but the Department of Health and Human Services sent the proposed rule for meaningful use Stage 3 to the Office of Management and Budget.

There’s precious little detail in these submissions, but HHS foreshadowed the major problems it intends to address with this next, and perhaps final, stage of the federal EHR Incentive Program.

"Stage 3 will focus on improving health care outcomes and further advance interoperability," according to OMB’s website. "Stage 3 will also propose changes to the reporting period, timelines and structure of the program, including providing a single definition of meaningful use. These changes will provide a flexible, yet, clearer framework to ensure future sustainability of the EHR program and reduce confusion stemming from multiple stage requirements."

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT also submitted a rule to OMB proposing a new 2015 Edition Base EHR definition, as well as modifications to the ONC Health IT Certification Program, "to make it more broadly applicable to other types of health IT health care settings and programs," another OMB web page states.

ONC’s proposed rule would establish capabilities and criteria, and specify standards and implementation specifications that EHR makers must meet, to "at a minimum support the achievement of meaningful use" for customers including eligible hospitals and eligible providers looking to attest and receive incentives.

OMB ranks both proposed rules as “major” but the in the form’s legal deadline field the status is none.

Stage 3 is expected to begin in 2017.


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Addressing Health Data Sharing Risks

Addressing Health Data Sharing Risks | EHR and Health IT Consulting | Scoop.it

As healthcare organizations step up their efforts this year to exchange more patient data with others to help improve care, it's urgent that they address the "significant risks" involved, says Erik Devine, chief security officer at 370-bed Riverside Medical Center in Kankakee, Ill.

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, the unit of the Department of Health and Human Services that oversees policy and standards for the HITECH Act electronic health record financial incentive program, later this month expects to release a final draft of a "10-year roadmap" that includes an emphasis on the interoperability of EHR systems, paving the way for nationwide secure health data exchange. This comes as Congress is demanding more scrutiny of EHRs that "block" interoperable health information exchange, impeding efforts to improve access to data to boost care quality.


An important question that healthcare organizations need to ask as health information exchange gains momentum, Devine says in an interview with Information Security Media Group, is "Are we prepared to manage all the information that's flowing in and out of the system?"

To help defend against the increased risk of breaches during health information exchange, Devine says it's vital that healthcare providers use "very strong encryption methods for data in transit and at rest."

Plus, data needs to be inaccessible to anyone who doesn't need to access it "at every level, from the provider, to the healthcare information exchange steward, to the data that's sitting on the servers in the data center at your hospital. That is key for HIE to be successful," Devine stresses.

Healthcare organizations need to step up their defenses as they ramp up information exchange locally, regionally and nationally because "it's not going to be rocket science for [bad actors] to take this data," Devine says. "They're going to find vulnerabilities in these systems, they are going to find vulnerabilities in process or workflow, including a simple social engineering attack."

In the interview, Devine also discusses:

  • Advanced persistent threats facing healthcare, as well as the threats posed by employees and business associates;
  • The challenges involved with securing applications;
  • Riverside's top information security priorities and projects for 2015;
  • How his new position teaching computer science at a local university will potentially help him tap new talent and ideas for his organization.


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