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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Three Vendors are Driving Patient Engagement and Portal Use

Three Vendors are Driving Patient Engagement and Portal Use | EHR and Health IT Consulting |

Driving patient engagement is still vital for the healthcare sector despite certain inconsistencies from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). Even though CMS has proposed new Stage 2 Meaningful Use regulations that drop the 5 percent requirement of patients viewing, downloading, and transmitting their health information to just one patient per provider, the organization still expects eligible professionals and hospitals to meet a much larger percentage – currently proposed to be 25 percent – of patients viewing their medical data through patient portals under the Stage 3 Meaningful Use requirements. As such, providers would be wise to continue integrating patient engagement strategies at their facility.

Vendors play a vital part in developing effective patient portals to assist providers in driving patient engagement among their community of consumers. A report from the research firm KLAS examined which vendors in particular have been most useful in moving forward patient portal adoption amidst healthcare providers.Driving Patient Engagement

Athenahealth, Epic, and Medfusion were reported to be at the top of their game when it comes to increasing portal adoption throughout the patient population. More than half of the customers under all three vendors report that at least 20 percent of their patients have accessed the patient portal. This is well above the previous 5 percent threshold that CMS initially unrolled under Stage 2 Meaningful Use regulations.

KLAS discovered these findings after interviewing 186 medical provider organizations on which vendors have really made a difference in meeting their needs and advancing health IT and patient engagement for a brighter tomorrow.

The KLAS report focused on three main areas regarding patient portal strategies: enterprise, ambulatory, and EMR agnostic. A variety of factors associated with increasing patient portal adoption were addressed in the report including product performance and vendor guidance.

“Value-based care is forcing patient portals to evolve from being merely tools for reactive regulatory compliance to becoming valuable instruments that allow patients to proactively engage in their own care,” said report author Coray Tate. “Providers report that vendor guidance and functionality that patients find useful, such as billing and self-scheduling, are the most effective ways to encourage portal adoption among patients.”

A study published by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) further outlines the use of the patient portal particularly among teenagers and parents. The researchers studied the attitudes of these two groups through one teen digital bulletin board, one parent digital bulletin board, and two focus groups for each faction. Videos and transcripts from the sessions were then analyzed.

The results showed that both teenagers and parents found that patient portals are beneficial and should be used to help teens better manage their own healthcare. Some teenagers were concerned that physicians would not be keeping certain information private and will let their parents see data that is meant to be protected. One parent said: “This kind of access will help my teen become much more interested in her healthcare and also motivate her to take control. And that will be great.”

With greater teamwork between vendors, providers, and the patients themselves, there should be a rise in the use of portals and patient engagement.

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Do Patient Engagement Measures Address Privacy Concerns?

Do Patient Engagement Measures Address Privacy Concerns? | EHR and Health IT Consulting |

With patient engagement measures playing a significant role in the recently released Stage 3 Meaningful Use proposed ruling, it becomes more imperative than in prior years to better understand how to effectively engage patients in their own healthcare. More companies are conducting market research surveys and other polls to find out how health IT and healthcare reform is perceived from the patient perspective.

Nuance Communications is one such company that has polled approximately 3,000 patients from the US, the United Kingdom, and Germany to learn more about patients’ views on healthcare technology. The survey, called Healthcare from the Patient Perspective, found that patients in Germany value privacy during a physical exam while those in the UK and the US care more about the physician being fully engaged and showing eye contact during a visit. Important findings like these may need to be further addressed within patient engagement measures.

Dr. Nick van Terheyden, Chief Medical Information Officer of Nuance Communications, spoke with about the findings from this survey. Since van Terheyden is passionate about both clinical and patient advocacy, he was pleased with the survey results.

“One of the biggest surprises came from the differences between the countries. The UK and the US were similar in people’s perspective around technology and the physician interaction as well as what troubled them about it,” said Dr. van Terheyden. “In many instances, patients feel this technology is reducing their quality time with the clinician. From the German side of the survey, their primary concern with the introduction of technology was the security and confidentiality issue.”

“There was a concern about having additional people like scribes in the office,” he continued. “For me as a clinician, I think we take for granted the interaction that we have with our patients. They walk in with an incredible level of trust with their clinician. Patients lay their heart out to their physician to help him or her understand your problems and to share deep, personal details about one’s clinical condition. The fundamental basis of clinical medicine is honesty between the patient and the clinician.”

The Chief Medical Information Officer explained that adding an extra individual such as a scribe, nurse, or other healthcare professional into the exam room has made some patients, specifically those in Germany, less likely to open up and share all of their health issues with the physician.

“[This finding] needs to be taken account of as we try and support clinicians and patients in the office setting,” stated Dr. van Terheyden.

While there may be some concerns with the use of scribes among patients from Germany, there are also some benefits to having another professional document the patient-doctor interaction, especially with regard to reaching patient engagement measures. For example, the use of scribes could allow physicians to focus on the patients instead of data entry and essentially give both patients and doctors more time to interact.

The use of scribes is “one of the emerging trends under a great deal of discussion. From a clinician standpoint, one of the things they see is supporting infrastructure around them that allows them to focus on the patient,” said Dr. van Terheyden. “What came out clearly from the survey is the feeling of being rushed. Forty percent of patients feel rushed during their visit. If asked to classify the quality of the interaction, it was about the focus of the physician, eye contact, and attention to the patient. All of this technology has detracted from that.”

The use of a scribe or possibly recording tools could solve some of the issues surrounding the patient-doctor relationship. However, both privacy and documentation quality concerns of a scribe may need to be addressed before healthcare providers adopt this service, the Nuance Communications CMIO explained.

The survey showed that a significant number of patients spend less than 10 minutes with their physician during an average visit. Dr. Nick van Terheyden went on to offer solutions on ways to increase the amount of time and quality of time doctors spend with patients.

The healthcare industry would benefit from doctors “using other clinical resources to take on activities, using technology to become more efficient, [and] using telemedicine.”

“Sometimes the interaction that occurs in a patient’s home using a video exchange can be perceived as high quality because they didn’t have to spend 40 minutes waiting or driving. Technology can apply some potential solutions that might improve the amount or quality of time physicians spend with patients,” stated Dr. Nick van Terheyden.

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Why Patients, Providers Support Health Information Exchange

Why Patients, Providers Support Health Information Exchange | EHR and Health IT Consulting |

The latest Stage 3 Meaningful Use proposed rule emphasizes the expansion of health information exchange (HIE) due to the significant benefits of greater access to medical data.

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) offers a multitude of HIE benefits through its website. First, it allows for better tracking and management of patient health records. HIES also serve as a system for reducing medical errors and increasing patient safety.179210469

Healthcare efficiency increases, as health information exchange reduces paperwork and redundant data entry. Additionally, HIEs enhance public health reporting and patient monitoring as well as ensures a functional level of interoperability among EHR systems within individual physician practices and hospitals.

On the other side of the potential benefits from HIE expansion, one study argues that there may be more correlation between HIEs and better patient health outcomes versus a more direct cause toward improved quality of care.

A newsletter from the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis reported on a research paper published in the journal Health Affairs that found little evidence of HIEs directly causing improvements in the medical sector.

Researchers from the university analyzed 27 studies reporting on the benefits of HIEs and found that it may be too early to tell whether health information exchange systems are truly revolutionizing care and lowering costs. The researchers believe there may be more of a correlation between HIEs and medical benefits.

“We need to eliminate any confounding issues implicating the correlation between benefits and HIE,” Professors Nir Menachemi, one of the study’s authors, told the source. “For example, how do we know that the correlation between computerization and good outcomes isn’t really just being driven by the fact that early adopters of HIE are exemplary healthcare providers? We need to rule out those kinds of things.”

Despite any potential criticism of health information exchange, patients themselves are calling for more efficient sharing of medical information across hospitals and physicians. According to a survey conducted by ORC International and released by the Society of Participatory Medicine, 75 percent of polled Americans believe their health information should be readily available and shared among hospitals, doctors, and other healthcare providers.

Additionally, a large majority of respondents – 87 percent – are vehemently against being billed for the exchange of vital health data among healthcare providers. Unfortunately, even after a physician practice sets up the technology necessary to transmit health data, the facility may get charged additionally every time they send and receive information.

Almost 20 percent of polled Americans experienced a problem that they or a family member had when receiving care because their medical records could not be accessed by a different healthcare provider. Many physicians also cite delays in accessing current patient data as a major barrier in offering medical treatment.

Whether health information exchange leads to significant benefits or improves the quality of care, the viewpoints of both physicians and patients is that easily accessible and readily available health information is a necessity.

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As CMS Becomes Lenient, Providers Tackle Patient Engagement

As CMS Becomes Lenient, Providers Tackle Patient Engagement | EHR and Health IT Consulting |

While patient engagement remains a top priority for many medical organizations across the country, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released a proposed ruling modifying meaningful use requirements and specifically relenting on a major patient engagement objective.

Previously, Stage 2 Meaningful Use requirements called for 5 percent of a provider’s patient base to access, download, and/or transmit their electronic health information, but now this objective has been changed for the years 2015 to 2017 in the proposed ruling. If the proposed rule becomes initiated as part of the meaningful use requirements for the next several years, eligible hospitals and physicians will need to ensure that just one patient views, downloads, or transmits their electronic medical data.

Even though CMS may be changing some patient engagement requirements, healthcare providers are still geared toward improving patient satisfaction as well as medication adherence. At the 2015 HIMSS Annual Conference and Exhibition in Chicago, the company TowerView Health was announced the winner of the 9th annual Venture+ Forum pitch competition meant for startups, according to the company’s press release.

Last week, 15 startup companies were chosen to take part in pitching live presentations to a panel of investors and healthcare experts. TowerView Health pitched to the investors a solution that assists patients with chronic diseases manage their complicated medication schedules.

TowerView’s pillbox allows patients to receive a pre-filled medication tray directly from their pharmacist. This pillbox is capable of sending reminders to patients if they miss a dose or don’t take a prescribed drug on time. The company works with health plans and at-risk providers to offer this particular service to patients for free.

“HIMSS and the mHealth Summit are focused on creating opportunities, providing business-building content, fostering partnerships and supporting entrepreneurs and early-stage companies developing innovative new health technologies.  The Venture+ Forum is an excellent resource for companies to network and connect with healthcare providers, payers, channels, institutions and strategic dealmakers,” Richard Scarfo, Vice President of Personal Connected Health Alliance at HIMSS, said in the press release.

TowerView Health isn’t the only organization looking to increase patient engagement. For example, HealthPrize Technologies, LLC and MeadWestvaco are collaborating on a new patient engagement and medication adherence platform, according to a news release.

Another organization called IntegraMed Fertility has adopted web-based patient engagement applications that are likely to revolutionize care and patient satisfaction through this network. The Patient PLUS portal from Anthelio Healthcare Solutions provides a much-desired self-service aspect that’s missing from much of the medical industry. These self-service capabilities include automating appointment scheduling and pre-registration. It also allows for viewing and accessing medical histories, electronic records, laboratory results, and radiology reports while at home or in a healthcare setting. Secure messaging tools for strengthening the patient-physician relationship are also available through this portal.

“Patient PULSE is a perfect fit for these patient-centered clinics, as it provides a multitude of ways to personalize the patient portal experience, providing additional support and communication opportunities for patients while empowering them to take a more active role in their care,” Asif Ahmad, CEO of Anthelio Healthcare Solutions, said in a public statement.

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Making Health IT Lead Patient Engagement Improvements

Making Health IT Lead Patient Engagement Improvements | EHR and Health IT Consulting |

Enhancing the quality of patient care and expanding patient engagement improvements are key areas that healthcare providers are focused on today. Through the utilization of new health IT tools, many medical professionals are seeing improvements in patient care processes throughout their practices.

Physicians’ Alliance, Ltd. (PAL) is one organization that has put their efforts into advancing patient care by adopting a leading analytics platform from Geneia, a vendor of software solutions for the healthcare industry.  PAL runs 22 practices throughout Pennsylvania and this analytics platform may lead to lowering medical costs and improving the quality of care for more than 500,000 patients, according to a company press release.

Victoria Martell, Quality Initiatives Coordinator at PAL, spoke with about some of their efforts toward improving patient care and the benefits of the new analytics platform. The organization has only implemented the technology within the last week and it may take more time to garner the exact advantages the analytics system will bring.

“I can tell from what little exposure I’ve had to it is that it’s definitely a powerful tool,” Martell said. “I’m very hopeful that it will provide us with a deeper dive into the information we’ll need to offer better care or identify areas of costs and utilization that can help us create better care management programs for our patients.”

The analytics platform may even “save the community and the patient [costs] in the long run.” Another Geneia client found that the platform offers information that can assist in lowering prescription costs and targeting patients that have high medical spending but have not seen their primary care provider in the last year.

According to Martell, analytics software and other health IT tools can help in “identifying patients that have gaps in their care such as quality measures, cancer screenings, adult immunizations, and patients with chronic diseases who haven’t had tests that monitor the diseases.”

“It will help us identify patients who might not have had those tests completed,” Martell explained. “In turn, we can reach out to them to ensure they are able to obtain the care that they need so we can better manage their conditions. This will also help prevent and identify diseases early on, so it will be more treatable.”

When it comes to using these tools for clinical analysis, Martell believes that they will improve patient health outcomes at PAL. The way this will be achieved is by identifying patients with gaps in their care and working on managing disease to prevent more serious or fatal outcomes.

“[These tools can help us by] identifying patients who have gaps in care especially with disease management,” Martell said. “If we’re able to identify patients who might not be seeing primary care providers or specialists regularly enough to help manage their chronic diseases, we can come up with a care plan strategy and a care team that leads to ultimately better care in the long run.”

Quality care and patient engagement improvements are also significant goals at PAL and Martell spoke about the processes and health IT tools needed to enhance the patient experience.

“Patient engagement is new and previously the patient would only sit and listen to the provider. Now technology allows for more availability of patients to reach out to providers rather than just a phone call. It is slowly coming around,” Martell mentioned. “We had a struggle early on with our patient portal. We struggled with having patients wanting to utilize the patient portal. Over time, they’ve seen the benefits of it and use it a lot now.”

“The Physicians Alliance is also a Level 3 Patient-Centered Medical Home. Obtaining this recognition, we had to demonstrate the ability to encourage patient engagement,” Martell explained. “Through our care teams and patient education that we have available, patients seem to be more apt to converse with us and ask questions. The providers have more time to spend with patients because we were able to shift things that the providers didn’t necessarily need to do [and transfer it over to] qualified nurses. This allowed the providers to have the time to sit and work with the patient.”

Victoria Martell also spoke on the benefits of EHR systems for impacting patient engagement improvements and patient care. When looking at the provider side of things, EHR technology can help enhance tracking of patient needs and helps improve efficiencies across a hospital or physician practice. The EHR system at PAL is able to flag reminders for clinical staff on any upcoming tests or immunizations patients may need.

When it comes to the new analytics platform, Martell said: “The system can integrate with our scheduling system and can compare what is needed for a patient and provide a ‘report card’ for that patient so that information can be used for an upcoming visit. It will help the nurse and provider team work with the patients to ensure that needed screenings are completed.”

Martell also discussed how Stage 2 Meaningful Use requirements have affected patient engagement improvements. PAL has reported Stage 2 Meaningful Use at their practices and Martell believes these requirements have increased patient engagement.

“One of the core elements of reporting [Stage 2 Meaningful Use] is patient engagement through the use of the patient portal. Prior to us striving to achieve Stage 2, our portal usage was not meeting the thresholds needed. We had to evaluate our workflows and how we presented portals to patients,” Martell stated. “Informing patients that they don’t need to sit on hold on the phone [by using the portal instead] really had increased patient awareness and we now see portal usage has substantially increased since July of 2014.”

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